OHSU medical school to test students' compassion skills

Portland, Ore.-based OHSU School of Medicine is one of the first medical schools in the nation to require students pass a new test examining their ability to be compassionate communicators, according to Kaiser Health News.

In order to graduate this spring, OHSU medical school seniors must participate in a role-playing exercise demonstrating they know how to admit a medical mistake, deliver a death notice and effectively communicate emotional or ethical issues, in addition to their clinical skills tests.

The curriculum was devised as part of a plan spearheaded by Susan Tolle, MD, a professor of medicine at OHSU and director of the Center for Ethics in Health Care, to improve physicians' ability to communicate with patients in times of crisis and introduce standards into students' coursework dealing with communication, ethics and professionalism.

"My generation of faculty were not taught [to effectively talk with patients]," she said. "It was more about, 'How long have you had chest pain?' I did not have [instruction in] how to give bad news."

Dr. Tolle said the majority of the students passed this year's exam earlier this month. However, some failed to introduce themselves properly or did not attempt to find out what information family members had already been given about the patient — news that, when delivered poorly, could have a disastrous effect on the patient's family long after the incident.

Dr. Tolle said this year's exam will be examined and refined for future classes. She also told Kaiser Health News that OHSU faculty members will have the opportunity to participate in sessions to improve their own communication skills to model the lessons students are taught in the classroom.

To access the full report, click here.

More articles on physician integration issues:
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Nearly half of med students are burned out before residency: 4 things to know
U of Central Florida medical school fires exec following allegations of 'threatening, humiliating behavior'

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