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Curiosity and medical education:Dyche L, Epstein RM. Medical Education 2011; 45:663-668.


Reviewed by Susan Bannister

What was the study question?
What are the barriers to, and the facilitators of, curiosity in the education of doctors?

How was the study done?
The authors qualitatively reviewed the literature and conducted a "theory-driven conceptual exploration".

What were the results?
The authors argue that curiosity is essential for clinical reasoning and excellent patient care as it promotes a strong doctor-patient relationship and results in more accurate diagnoses. Dyche and Epstein describe educational practices that suppress curiosity and those that support it. Factors that can suppress curiosity include: celebrating efficiency (resulting in compromised data collection and decision making), suppressing negative emotions (which interfers with rational thinking), promoting passive learning (in which the learner chooses the "safe" route of silence rather than expressing curiosity), and rewarding overconfidence (which has been lined to diagnostic errors).

In contrast, factors that can support curiosity include: allowing time for reflection (to consolidate and contextualize knowledge), encouraging questions (which will enhance diagnostic reasoning), modeling uncertainty, and considering multiple perspectives.

What are the implications of these findings?
Curiosity has received little attention in the medical literature. This paper – along with two commentaries in the same issue (details listed below) – challenges medical educators to reflect upon our own teaching practices and become facilitators of curiosity among our students.

Two commentaries are:
Roman R. Curiosity: A best practice in medical education. Medical Education 2011; 45:654-656. Said Roman "Without curiosity, the wonder and awe of taking care of patients is obliterated and the critical thinking that is necessary for effective patient care is lost."
Werner A, Rieber N, Zipfel S. Curiosity's curious influence on medical doctors. Medical Education 2011; 45:656-658. "Maintaining curiosity means tolerating ambiguity, expecting the unexpected, and openly welcoming new thougths even if they do not fit into what was previously known."

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