Can professionalism be taught? Encouraging evidence

Mark S Hochberg, Adina Kalet, Sondra Zabar, Elizabeth Kachur, Colleen Gillespie, Russell S Berman
American Journal of Surgery 2010, 199 (1): 86-93

BACKGROUND: Teaching and assessing the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) competencies of Professionalism and Communication have proven to be a challenge for surgical residency training programs. This study used innovative pedagogic approaches and tools in teaching these two competencies. The purpose of this study was to determine whether the learners actually are assimilating and using the concepts and values communicated through this curriculum.

METHODS: A six-station Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) was designed using standardized patients to create varying Professionalism and Communication scenarios. The surgical resident learners were evaluated using these OSCEs as a baseline. The faculty then facilitated a specially designed curriculum consisting of six interactive sessions focusing on information gathering, rapport building, patient education, delivering bad news, responding to emotion, and interdisciplinary respect. At the conclusion of this curriculum, the surgical resident learners took the same six-station OSCE to determine if their professionalism and communication skills had improved.

RESULTS: The surgical resident learners were rated by the standardized patients according to a strict task checklist of criteria at both the precurricular and postcurricular OSCEs. Improvement in the competencies of Professionalism and Communication did achieve statistical significance (P = .029 and P = .011, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests that the Communication and Professionalism ACGME competencies can be taught to surgical resident learners through a carefully crafted curriculum. Furthermore, these newly learned competencies can affect surgical resident interactions with their patients positively.

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