Tip of the week: Tips for teaching the interpersonal skills and communication competency

Residency Program Insider, September 7, 2010

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The following five tips provide guidance on how to teach the interpersonal skills and communication competency:

  1. Choose or adapt a uniform conceptual framework/model of interpersonal and communication skills to guide teaching and assessment. Adapt the framework to your institution, its settings, and the level of trainee experience. Repeated and widespread use of a coherent framework reinforces the residents’ skills and competencies, as well as faculty and learner expectations.
  2. The framework you use for teaching and assessment should focus on both interpersonal and communication skills. It should also pay particular attention to the physician-patient relationship, understanding the patient’s perspective, relationship-centered care, and the enhancement of self-awareness and reflection in the learner. A large research base supports the association of these components with improved health outcomes.
  3. The competency is simply more than a set of communication tasks and behaviors. Evaluate the learners’ ability to show compassion and empathy and ability to develop and sustain good relationships with patients and families, colleagues, and those they teach. The assessment process should enhance values and teach respect for the physician-patient relationship and the relationships between the physician and colleagues, learners, the medical team, and society.
  4. Bring patients’ perspectives—the patients’ voice—into the evaluation of learners, particularly to assess the quality of the physician-patient relationship. Demonstration of interpersonal and relational capacities requires observation and ratings by actual or trained simulated patients (i.e., professional actors or standardized patients) during real or simulated clinical encounters.
  5. Use your assessment methods and tools in a variety of ways for formative and summative evaluation and for teaching. Formative evaluations assess learning needs, create learning opportunities, guide feedback and coaching, promote reflection, and shape values. Summative evaluations evaluate competence in high-stakes evaluations for promotion, licensing, and certification.

This week’s tip is from A Practical Guide to Teaching and Assessing the ACGME Core Competencies, Second Edition by Elizabeth A. Rider, MSW, MD, FAAP.

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