ACP: Med school faculty should align out-of-class behavior with classroom lessons

Medical school faculty's ethics and behavior should match the lessons they aim to teach students in the classroom, according to a paper by the American College of Physicians published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine Feb. 27.

The paper's authors posit a certain "hidden curriculum" is embedded into each student's learning during their medical school education. The curriculum comprises the positive and negative lessons students absorb from faculty members' attitudes and behaviors, which then influence the student's own understanding of the profession.

According to the authors, more than half of 2016 medical school graduates said they experienced a disconnect between what they were taught about professional behaviors and attitudes and what they saw being demonstrated by faculty. An example of that disconnect the authors note is the inherent systemic bias against primary care, which reportedly "contributes to the U.S. healthcare system being unprepared to meet the needs of an aging population."

The ACP outlines three recommendations to realign students' understandings and expectations with faculty's behavior outside of the classroom:

  • Lessons outside of the classroom must parallel formal education. Faculty and senior staff members should continuously model empathy, encourage reflection and encourage students to talk about positive and negative behaviors in training.
  • The learning environment should encourage respect and honesty and welcome questions about ethics, professionalism and care delivery. Teamwork must also be taught and demonstrated.
  • Leaders should clearly communicate values in everyday decision-making and expectations of professionalism in a culture where patient well-being is a core value.

"The hidden curriculum in medicine presents challenges but also opportunities to help reshape not only education but also the culture of medicine," the authors conclude.

To access the paper, click here.

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