Assessing and teaching communication between physicians

A team from the UNIGE Faculty of Medicine has developed and validated a methodology for assessing conflict management between physicians that can be used to better train students and young professionals to collaborate and communicate in a clinical setting. These results can be read in the journal PLOS One.

The ability to communicate and collaborate with colleagues is essential for physicians to provide safe, quality of care. While, in recent years, the training of physicians and other healthcare professionals has included interprofessional education to learn how to work together, little attention has been focused onthe issues when it comes to communication and breakdowns that occur within a profession – i.e. intra-professional communication. "Yet, these conflicts, which are very frequent, can have an indirect impact on our patients," stresses Nadia Bajwa, an attending physician at the HUG's Division of General Paediatrics and a researcher at the Unit of Development and Research in Medical Education (UDREM) at the UNIGE Faculty of Medicine, who led this study. "It is imperative to provide our students with the necessary preparation and tools to act in an optimal way. A good doctor is not just a good technician. The human element is at the heart of our profession.”

Simulating conflicts to better resolve them

In order to do this, it is necessary to assess the effectiveness of the training courses offered and the conflict management skills of the students who follow them. The research team therefore developed and validated an evaluation methodology using simulation techniques already in use in interprofessional teaching, within the CiS (interprofessional simulation centre). "The station was based on a scenario in which an actor played the role of a resident who enters into a conflictual situationwith their fellow resident in the midst of preparing a journal club presentation ," explains Julia Sader, a PhD candidate at the UDREM, who shared  her perspective as a psychologist to these observations and the overall project t. "Two members of the research team observed 82 trainees in order to study in detail their reactions and conflict resolution strategies.” These observations enabled the research team to validate a 22-point qualitative and quantitative assessment based on a literature review on conflict management in health care.

An effective method

This tool allows for a reliable assessment of intra-professional conflict management skills and gives students useful feedback to put into practice. Beyond conflict management itself, this simulationallows us to focus on communication skills in terms of professional attitudes and the understanding of one's position in relation to others in a care context.

This study is relevant to the medical curriculum taught at the Faculty of Medicine, which, in line with national strategies for the training of physicians, places greater emphasis than before on professional identity, human qualities, and communication.

March 3, 2023