Cinemeducation Improves Communication Skills of Residents

Teaching communication skills is an important component in undergraduate and postgraduate medical education. It is one of the core competencies of physicians. But how to teach these communication skills?

Why do physicians have to learn these communication skills? Because they have to discuss important topics with their patients such as:

  • Discussing end-of life issues
  • Delivering bad news
  • They have to attend to psychosocial aspects of patients
  • They have to disclose errors or adverse events

These are not easy topics to discuss. There is a set of universal guidelines by which effective communication skills can be taught, evaluated, and utilized in medical education and practice. The Kalamazoo consensus statement:

  • Build the doctor-patient relationship
  • Open the discussion
  • Gather information
  • Understand the patient’s perspective
  • Share information
  • Reach agreement on problems and plans
  • Provide closure

These broadly supported elements provide a useful framework for communication-oriented curricula and standards.

But how to teach these effective communication? With cinemeducation. This is the use of clips from popular films and television shows in education.

The use of popular television shows such as House and Gray’s Anatomy with a focus on the Kalamazoo’s model, was very successful in teaching effective communication skills to residents.

How was this study done?

We selected two excerpts from the television show House, and one from Gray’s Anatomy and featured them in conjunction with a brief didactic presentation of the Kalamazoo consensus statement on doctor-patient communication. To assess the efficacy of this approach a set of standardized questions were given to our residents once at the beginning and once at the completion of the session.

The episodes of House and Gray’s Anatomy were selected by one of the chief medical residents who screen played the entire first season of both shows. The scenes were chosen to depict important and sensitive situations with respect to doctor-patient communication. The scenes represented 3 clinical scenarios, namely, addressing end-of life issues, attending to psychosocial aspects of illness, and disclosing medical errors. These scenes were followed by 7 questions that mirrored the seven elements in the Kalamazoo’s model and by an interactive reflection period where residents were encouraged to input their ideas on the excerpts verbally and discuss what they would have done differently in each of the featured scenarios.

The residents demonstrated significant improvements in their self-rated understanding of effective communication after this cinemeducation.

The residents were tested before and after the training.

We observed significant improvements in the residents’ understanding of the essential elements of effective communication and their comfort levels in selected clinical scenarios that were deemed challenging.

Do you have experience and/or suggestions for cinemeducation in medical education?
Wong, R., Saber, S., Ma, I., & Roberts, J. (2009). Using television shows to teach communication skills in internal medicine residency BMC Medical Education, 9 (1) DOI: 10.1186/1472-6920-9-9