Council on Medical Student Education in Pediatrics


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COMSEP 2012 Indianapolis Meeting

Poster Presentation:

Standardized Patient Encounters for Enhancing Third-Year Medical Students - Communication Skills

Ryan J Whitt, B.A. - Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine; Gregory J Toussaint, M.D. - Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine; S. Bruce Binder, M.D. - Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine; Nicole Borges, Ph.D. - Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine

Deliberately practicing clinical communication and receiving feedback are effective learning strategies for medical students.  While students typically have numerous opportunities to practice clinical communication with adult patients, such practice in pediatric settings is limited.  In addition to mastering content, students may struggle with managing emotion during patient interviews and literature demonstrates medical students show a significant decline in empathic attitudes as they progress through medical school.  More focused educational interventions for students can further enhance their communication abilities.  Our intervention enabled students to practice advanced communication skills within pediatric specific situations and our study evaluated the intervention's effectiveness.  The goal of the intervention was to challenge the student by requiring a balance of content mastery and advanced communication ability to complete the encounter successfully.  Three pediatric scenarios were designed to represent common, realistic patient encounters intended to challenge students within their scope of expertise: an adolescent psychosocial history, a parent worried about an autism and MMR link, and a child with worsening asthma caught between divorced parents. 

Third-year medical students during their pediatric clerkship engaged in the scenarios and received both written and oral feedback from a preceptor observing the encounter.  Students’ self-perceived confidence and abilities at performing advanced communication skills were measured through an 8-item, pre and post Likert scale questionnaire. Data (N = 39) analyzed using a Wilcoxon-Matched Pairs Signed-Rank test demonstrated a statistically significant difference in students’ perception of their confidence and abilities regarding their performance of the advanced communication skills being assessed (p <.05, Boneferroni correction p < .006).  Students reported more confidence and ability after engaging in the scenarios. Results to date demonstrate students perceive the intervention as a valuable educational experience and the intervention is continuing at our institution.  Our program is inexpensive as it utilizes volunteer simulated parents and observers and its simple design and ease of operation may allow it to be implemented at other medical schools using the same simulated cases.