The morbidity and mortality conference: a unique opportunity for teaching empathic communication.
BACKGROUND: The morbidity and mortality conference is an educational tradition in American medicine that dates to the early 20th century. Traditionally, this conference has focused entirely on issues of diagnosis and treatment, in the context of a disappointing clinical outcome. INTERVENTION: We report on a new method for teaching empathic doctor-patient communication skills at an obstetrics and gynecology morbidity and mortality conference. For each case presented, we identified the communications challenges and allowed faculty and residents to "practice" the discussion they would have with the patient and the patient's family in that situation. In some sessions, actors assumed the role of the patient. Following the discussion of the case, we offered didactic presentations on how we communicate with patients and their families. These focused on techniques for being patient centered and included the use of body language, open-ended questioning, reflective listening before offering to explain, and the importance of naming and validating emotions. RESULTS: The majority of participants felt the sessions to be helpful, and after one month many were able to identify a positive change in their interactions with patients. CONCLUSIONS: We believe that this unique teaching format allows learners to refine their communication skills in the context of situations that they know to be both realistic and important.
Prose, NS; Brown, H; Murphy, G; Nieves, A
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