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Simulated disclosure of a medical error by residents: development of a course in specific communication skills

Simulated disclosure of a medical error by residents: development of a course in specific communication skills

Journal of Surgical Education 71(6): E116-E126

Surgery residents are expected to demonstrate the ability to communicate with patients, families, and the public in a wide array of settings on a wide variety of issues. One important setting in which residents may be required to communicate with patients is in the disclosure of medical error. This article details one approach to developing a course in the disclosure of medical errors by residents. Before the development of this course, residents had no education in the skills necessary to disclose medical errors to patients. Residents viewed a Web-based video didactic session and associated slide deck and then were filmed disclosing a wrong-site surgery to a standardized patient (SP). The filmed encounter was reviewed by faculty, who then along with the SP scored each encounter (5-point Likert scale) over 10 domains of physician-patient communication. The residents received individualized written critique, the numerical analysis of their individual scenario, and an opportunity to provide feedback over a number of domains. A mean score of 4.00 or greater was considered satisfactory. Faculty and SP assessments were compared with Student t test. Residents were filmed in a one-on-one scenario in which they had to disclose a wrong-site surgery to a SP in a Simulation Center. A total of 12 residents, shortly to enter the clinical postgraduate year 4, were invited to participate, as they will assume service leadership roles. All were finishing their laboratory experiences, and all accepted the invitation. Residents demonstrated satisfactory competence in 4 of the 10 domains assessed by the course faculty. There were significant differences in the perceptions of the faculty and SP in 5 domains. The residents found this didactic, simulated experience of value (Likert score ≥4 in 5 of 7 domains assessed in a feedback tool). Qualitative feedback from the residents confirmed the realistic feel of the encounter and other impressions. We were able to quantitatively demonstrate both competency and opportunities for improvement across a wide range of domains of interpersonal and communication skills. Residents are expected to communicate effectively with patients, families, and the public, as appropriate, across a broad range of socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. As academic surgeons, we must be mindful of our roles as teachers, mentors, and coaches by teaching good communication skills to our residents. Courses such as the one described here can help in improving physician-patient communication. The differing perspectives of faculty and SPs regarding resident performance warrants further study.

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Accession: 055783142

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 25155639

DOI: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2014.06.020

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