Residency

Ask the expert: How can faculty teach interpersonal and communication skills?

Residency Program Insider, July 5, 2011

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Ideally, your faculty members should teach good interpersonal and communication skills based on some basic tenants:

  • Show respect and good communication skills with everyone you interact with during the day. This includes learners, patients, families, support staff, nurses, and workers in environmental services.
  • Have a positive attitude about teaching residents communication skills that will improve their clinical skills.
  • Maintain consistent behavior in all situations.
  • Self-reflect on good and poor patient encounters


Faculty members may possess great interpersonal and communication skills and can model them, but do not necessarily know how to teach these skills. A survey of medical schools in 1999 indicates that the following methods are the primary ones used to teach these skills:

  • Small group discussions
  • Lectures
  • Student interviews with simulated patients
  • Student observation of faulty interaction with patients
  • Student interviews with patients


The best method seems to be direct observation of a resident-patient encounter. This can be accomplished by having the attending physician view the interaction in real time or by video review. Immediate feedback to the resident on his or her performance is essential for the success of this teaching method.




This week's question and answer are from The Residency Program Director's Handbook.



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