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Physicians judged exemplary by communication skills

Interpersonal and communication skills and professionalism are the competencies most often noted in emergency medicine physicians judged as exemplary by their peers, according to research recently published in the Journal of Communication in Healthcare[1].

The US-based study aimed to identify specific behaviours of emergency physicians that lead to them being judged as exemplary by their peers. The behaviours in the open-ended questionnaire were based around the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education’s (ACGME) six core competencies of resident development:

  1. Patient Care
  2. Medical Knowledge
  3. Practice-Based Learning and Improvement
  4. Interpersonal and Communication Skills
  5. Professionalism
  6. Systems-Based Practice

Their sub-competencies were also included. For example, under ‘Interpersonal and Communication Skills’, were included behaviours such as “demonstrate the ability to respectfully, effectively and efficiently develop a therapeutic relationship with patients and their families,” and “demonstrate effective listening skills and be able to elicit and provide information using verbal, nonverbal, written and technological skills”.

The data was collected from 126 experienced emergency medicine physicians and fourth-year medical students applying for emergency medicine residency.

Interpersonal and Communication Skills and Professionalism accounted for 75% of the descriptors of behaviours shown by those emergency medicine physicians considered exemplary; Medical Knowledge accounted for only 4.3%.

In the results, interpersonal and communication skills and professionalism tied in first position, with 37.8% of descriptors falling under these categories. Together, they accounted for 75% of the descriptors of behaviours shown by those emergency medicine physicians considered exemplary.

By way of contrast, Medical Knowledge accounted for only 4.3% of descriptors, yet medical schools throughout the world dedicate significantly more time to knowledge acquisition than to communication-skills training.

The authors conclude their discussion saying, “If the goal of medical educators is to produce exemplary physicians, there must be no abatement in emphasizing interpersonal skills. If anything, a greater emphasis is called for”.

Read the full research here.

[1] Timothy Spruill, Steven Nazario and Dale Scott Birenbaum (2020): Interpersonal and communication skills and professionalism are the competencies most often noted in emergency medicine physicians judged as exemplary by their peers, Journal of Communication in Healthcare, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/17538068.2020.1748476

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