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Open Access Research article

Views of new internal medicine faculty of their preparedness and competence in physician-patient communication

Paul S Mueller12*, Patricia A Barrier12, Timothy G Call12, Alan K Duncan12, Daniel L Hurley12, Adamarie Multari12, Jeffrey T Rabatin12 and James TC Li12

Author Affiliations

1 From the Program in Professionalism, Department of Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA

2 Department of Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic, 200 First Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905, USA

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BMC Medical Education 2006, 6:30  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-30

Published: 26 May 2006

Abstract

Background

We sought to assess self-rated importance of the medical interview to clinical practice and competence in physician-patient communication among new internal medicine faculty at an academic medical center.

Methods

Since 2001, new internal medicine faculty at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine (Rochester, Minnesota) have completed a survey on physician-patient communication. The survey asks the new faculty to rate their overall competence in medical interviewing, the importance of the medical interview to their practice, their confidence and adequacy of previous training in handling eight frequently encountered challenging communication scenarios, and whether they would benefit from additional communication training.

Results

Between 2001 and 2004, 75 general internists and internal medicine subspecialists were appointed to the faculty, and of these, 58 (77%) completed the survey. The faculty rated (on a 10-point scale) the importance of the medical interview higher than their competence in interviewing; this difference was significant (average ± SD, 9.4 ± 1.0 vs 7.7 ± 1.2, P < .001). Similar results were obtained by sex, age, specialty, years since residency or fellowship training, and perceived benefit of training. Experienced faculty rated their competence in medical interviewing and the importance of the medical interview higher than recent graduates (ie, less than one year since training). For each challenging communication scenario, the new faculty rated the adequacy of their previous training in handling the scenario relatively low. A majority (57%) said they would benefit from additional communication training.

Conclusion

Although new internal medicine faculty rate high the importance of the medical interview, they rate their competence and adequacy of previous training in medical interviewing relatively low, and many indicate that they would benefit from additional communication training. These results should encourage academic medical centers to make curricula in physician-patient communication available to their faculty members because many of them not only care for patients, but also teach clinical skills, including communication skills, to trainees.