Given that over 80% of diagnoses come from learning the patient’s story, and that eliciting this story relies on effective interpersonal engagement, it comes as no surprise that the ability to communicate effectively is an essential tool for every physician. Not only does effective communication improve our diagnostic accuracy, it also allows us to better understand our patient’s context, and thereby to develop individualized treatment plans that are likely to be successful.
While this sounds straightforward, we are all aware of situations in which we have faced challenges communicating with our patients, their families, and our colleagues. Consequently, considering these experiences, our reactions when they occur, the sources of those reactions, how those reactions impacted the care we delivered, and developing a plan to better cope with similar situations in the future is likely to improve our ability to care for our patients, interact with our colleagues, and develop personally and professionally.
Assignment (2 steps):
1. Reflect on a situation in which you had challenges communicating effectively with one of your patients and/or their family. Come to the small group session with notes that:
- Describe the situation. Be prepared to set the stage, being specific to others more fully appreciate the context of the situation.
- Examine your affective (emotional) and cognitive reactions to the challenges you had communicating with your patient/their family.
- Discuss whether this was how you thought you would react in such a situation. How have you reacted to similar situations in the past?
- Analyze the ways in which your reactions impacted the care your patient received. NOTE: our reactions usually impact the care we deliver, the challenge is whether we are able to recognize this in, or after the moment.
- Describe the insights you gained about yourself through reflecting on this experience and how you think it will impact your future practice of medicine.
2. Select one or more of the above resources to review prior to the small group session and come prepared to discuss what you found insightful about it.