Thursday, May 16, 2013

Utah Medical Residence Practice Communication with Patients by Using Actors

My opinion: I think that this is an incredible idea, and would certainly be of great help to me if I was a medical resident.  All too often, doctors lack the communication skills they need and fail to reach out to patients.  This could make the patients uncomfortable and unwilling to reveal their medical history and substance abuse problems, among others.  Because of this, doctors are left unable to accurately diagnose their patients and cannot map out an effective treatment plan.
I like that the actors are trying to take on a variety of personalities to account for multiple scenarios.  This might prevent doctors from stereotypically interpreting the actions of  their actual patients in the future.  However, I worry that the actors are not realistic enough.  They should study the behaviors of teens carefully before portraying them, so doctors are better prepared for more realistic scenarios.  Finally, since this is the pediatric department, perhaps the residents could train with slightly younger actors, as well.  Perhaps this is not as crucial (children don't seem to suffer from substance abuse as much), but it might also be more difficult to relate to someone who is even farther apart in age.  Should other specialties, like geriatrics, practice communication with actors of different ages and ethnicities?  Feel free to comment.

Medical students improve teen interviewing skills with help from young actors

SALT LAKE CITY — Communicating with teenagers can be a challenge for anyone. It can be especially difficult if the teenager is at a doctor's office and doesn't want to talk.
A new program at the University of Utah is teaching medical residents in pediatrics how to be better doctors by improving their interviewing skills with the help of teenage actors.
Dr. Joni Hemond, co-director of adolescent medicine rotation for residents at Primary Children's Medical Center, brought the idea to Utah after experiencing it firsthand at a conference in Boston.
"As a practicing physician for so many years, you do certain things that you don't realize that you're doing or ask questions in a certain way that maybe some teenagers are uncomfortable with," Hemond said. "I thought, 'If I can get this great feedback, wouldn't it be wonderful for the residents to go through the same thing?' "
In January, Hemond met with high school students from the Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts. She gave the actors backgrounds for patients to portray when interviewed by pediatricians. Some played teenagers with drug abuse issues, others were suicidal or depressed, and some were pregnant or had body issues.
Chamberlain Schultz, a junior at the school, played Amber Valentine, a student suffering from depression who is suicidal.
"(I put up) many, many walls because I was very despondent," Schultz said. "I hardly ever looked up, but I think that is to be expected."
She said she played the character as truthfully as possible so doctors can be better prepared to help individuals in those situations.


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