Teaching medical residents about teenagers: an introductory curriculum in adolescent medicine

Alexander M Djuricich
Academic Medicine 2002, 77 (7): 745-6

OBJECTIVE: Adolescents in the United States have high morbidity rates, which are attributable to injuries, behavioral disorders, sexually transmitted diseases, and unplanned pregnancies. This has led to a call to action for health care educators to better prepare future practitioners to meet adolescent health care needs. Although pediatrics residency programs have required one-month curricula dedicated to adolescent medicine, many internal medicine (IM) residency programs do not have such requirements despite an American College of Physicians position paper recognizing the importance of internists' providing health care to adolescents. Thus, an introductory curriculum in adolescent medicine was developed for a community hospital IM residency program. The curriculum was designed to train IM residents to effectively interview, provide preventive care for, and evaluate common medical problems of older adolescents (ages 16-21) in an outpatient setting.

DESCRIPTION: The curriculum was based on the results of an extensive needs assessment, which included surveys sent to practicing internists and current IM residents. It included three units, each a series of one-hour lessons delivered via morning report or grand rounds sessions. The first unit was interviewing, which covered specific interviewing questions, communication methods, and confidentiality issues. The second unit was preventive medicine care, which addressed immunizations, injury prevention, and adolescent drug and alcohol use. The third unit was diagnosis and management of common problems, which focused on topics frequently encountered during adolescent outpatient visits, including acne, sexually transmitted diseases, reproductive health care needs, and menstrual abnormalities. Other topics pertinent to the care of adolescents, notably depression, eating disorders, and sports medicine, were covered by previously established curricula, and thus omitted. This curriculum was created through the support of the Michigan State University Primary Care Faculty Development Fellowship Program, and was reviewed by curricular and adolescent medicine content experts. The residency program director supported its implementation over the course of two academic years. The pilot unit interviewing was conducted in February 2001, during two one-hour morning report sessions. In the first session, a short lecture outlining interviewing concepts and principles was given, followed by several case-based studies describing office presentations of adolescent patients. In the second session, an actual office visit was simulated; the residents observed adolescent volunteers being interviewed, and were then given an opportunity to ask the patients further questions. Residents completed a brief quiz and evaluation survey at the end of the pilot unit.

DISCUSSION: Twenty-one of 40 residents participated in the pilot unit. Evaluations were overall very positive. Quiz scores confirmed that the residents achieved the desired learning objectives. Given these results from the pilot unit, the remaining two units of the curriculum have been integrated into the residency curriculum. Additional faculty members have been selected to deliver future sessions and support this important educational activity. The adolescent medicine curriculum can be used as an model by other IM residency programs for teaching adolescent health care, with an emphasis on both the knowledge base of adolescent issues and awareness of the unique skills necessary for the establishment of a physician-patient relationship between internists and older adolescents.

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