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June 1996

Teaching Communication Skills: An Essential Part of Residency Training

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Pediatrics, Northwestern University Medical School and Children's Memorial Hospital, Chicago, Ill.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1996;150(6):638-642. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1996.02170310072013

Objective:  To design a structured curriculum concerning issues of communication with patients and families for use during training of pediatric residents.

Background:  The stimulus for this initiative arose from residents' perceived need for such a program and the realization that a structured approach to communication techniques did not currently exist in our residency and, in fact, in many undergraduate and graduate medical education curricula.

Methods:  Our program was designed to address complex and difficult areas in physician-patient interaction, including how to deliver "bad news," deal with hostile parents, and speak to children about serious illness; the psychosocial aspects of death and dying were also covered in the program. Various teaching techniques were used. We attempted to assess residents' response and alteration in behavior consequent to the program.

Results:  The program was successfully incorporated into the training of our residents and was carried out by using existent personnel; minimal expense was incurred. The residents thought the course was valuable and effective, although no statistically significant change in the communication skills of residents could be demonstrated.

Conclusions:  The area of physician-patient communication can be taught in a structured fashion during residency. Programs should be devised to meet the changing needs of training during residency and should incorporate the unique strengths of individual institutions.(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1996;150:638-642)