10 residency programs pilot new 'surgery communication' curriculum

A five-year curriculum to better prepare surgeons for communicating with patients and families about end-of-life care, surgical risks, options and treatment alternatives will be piloted in 10 residency programs across the U.S. over the next three years.

Margaret "Gretchen" Schwarze, MD, a professor of vascular surgery at University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, Wis., led the team of surgeon educators who developed the new curriculum, dubbed the "Fundamentals of Communication in Surgery," according to a May 30 news release. 

A $300,000 gift from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation will allow Dr. Schwarze and her team to expand the curriculum testing to 10 additional surgical residency programs around the country. 

Dr. Schwarze said the new curriculum builds off of two other communication models she has taught at the university, the "...Best Case/Worst Case and Better Conversations, which support surgeons when they communicate with patients and families," she explained.

The curriculum is designed to be scalable, and seamlessly fit into already existing residency schedules with a single two-hour session, each year for all five years of training.

"Residents can also face conflict with patients and families, who are understandably distraught, which can lead to moral distress for the surgeon," Dr. Schwarze said in the release. "We specifically designed this curriculum to provide the next generation of surgeons with the communication skills they will need to competently and confidently navigate this important ethical domain."

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