Monday, March 25, 2013

Medical Students Become Less Empathetic, Battle with Patients

My opinion:On the new 2015 MCAT, students will be tested on psychological and sociological concepts.  Because of this, many pre-medical students will need to take social science courses while in college.  While I think the American Medical Association is attempting to address this issue, I'm not sure how medical students can relate their educational experiences to their third year of medical school.  I'm glad that the educators at Boston University and Jefferson Medical College are forming discussion groups to more directly address this, but perhaps there are also other solutions.  For example, if the AMA stresses psychology and sociology, then perhaps medical schools could bring in professional psychologists and sociologists as leaders or guest speakers in these discussion groups.  Maybe they could even be integrated into the classroom curriculum before the third year of medical school, although given that medical school is so intense already, I'm not sure this would be possible.  I hope other schools can arrive at more kinds of solutions, as well, as this is something that could greatly affect the lives of the patients.  Feel free to comment.

  From: http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/health-wellness/2013/03/24/medical-students-empathy-drops-just-they-start-caring-for-patients/rWqFiVVsr9oze6EWRLwzwN/story.html?s_campaign=sm_tw

Empathy gap in medical students

Stress can harden students’ attitudes toward patients, but schools are trying to change that



Boston University medical student Erica Perry checks on patient Alma Conroy at Boston Medical Center.
Bill Greene/Globe Staff
Boston University medical student Erica Perry checks on patient Alma Conroy at Boston Medical Center.
Flint Wang was eager to start his third year of medical school, when he would finally break free of the classroom and treat patients. But once in the hospital, Wang, like many classmates, felt insecure and discouraged. Doctors don’t hesitate to point out students’ knowledge gaps. And neither do some patients.
Medical training can be so stressful that it is sometimes difficult to connect with those being treated. “Your knowledge is shaky and you walk around the wards frazzled,’’ said Wang, 25, who nonetheless is glad he decided to become a doctor.
The third year of medical school can be particularly bruising. But growing research suggests that something about this formative but punishing experience may harden students toward patients — a transformation that could persist years down the road.
At Boston University School of Medicine, where Wang is now in his fourth year, Dr. Daniel Chen has found in studies that students’ empathy scores fell between the time they started medical school and the time they graduated. The most significant drop occurred in the third year, just as students started caring for their first patients. Other researchers have uncovered similar patterns during residency training, although some physicians question whether the surveys capture the complexity of the issue.
“Empathy is the cornerstone of the doctor-patient relationship,’’ Chen said, so “it’s becoming more and more important to research.’’ He defines empathy as letting patients know the doctor understands their thoughts and feelings — important because studies show that patients of caring doctors may be healthier.
‘Empathy is the cornerstone of the doctor-patient relationship,’ so ‘it’s becoming more and more important to research.’
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Diabetics with empathic doctors were more likely to keep their blood sugar and cholesterol controlled than patients whose doctors were not as caring, according to a study published in 2011 in Academic Medicine by Mohammadreza Hojat of Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.
Because of the implications for patient health, Boston University and Jefferson are trying to boost students’ sensitivity with role-playing, analyzing movie clips of doctor-patient interactions, and participating in “reflection groups.’’ In one experiment at Jefferson, residents, who are junior doctors in training, assembled rocking chairs in the homes of poor, single new mothers while talking to them about child care. The idea was to enhance the doctor-patient relationship. Empathy scores jumped.

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