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Brief training program improves resident physicians' empathy with patients
Date:5/7/2012

olving three 60-minute training sessions that begin with focusing on the neurobiology of emotion and go on to address recognition of facial expressions and other non-verbal emotional cues, emotional self-awareness and strategies for dealing with challenging patients or delivering bad clinical news. The sessions also include techniques for recognizing the impact of stress and fatigue on one's own behavior and regulating personal stress responses.

The current study, which followed an earlier pilot trial, enrolled 99 residents and clinical fellows in Medicine, Surgery, Anesthesia, Psychiatry, Orthopdics and Ophthalmology from MGH or the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. Half were randomly assigned to participate in the empathy training sessions while the others continued their standard program. At the outset of the study, several of the patients seen by each study participant completed a standard assessment of their most recent interaction with the physician. The survey called the Consultation and Relational Empathy Measure asked patients to rank how well the physician did in "making you feel at ease," "fully understanding your concerns," "showing care and compassion" and similar measures.

The three training sessions, all conducted by Riess, were delivered over four-week periods to groups of 6 to 15 residents in the same specialty, starting within a month of the initial patient ratings. One to two months after training sessions were completed, another group of patients was asked to assess their interactions with their participating physicians both those who completed the empathy training and the control group. In addition, participating residents completed before-and-after tests of their knowledge of the neurobiology and physiology of emotion, assessments of their ability to decode facial expressions and the value they placed on empathic communication, along with self-assessment of their empathy-related attitudes and skills.

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Contact: Sue McGreevey
smcgreevey@partners.org
617-724-2764
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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