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Teaching the art of doctoring: an innovative medical student elective.


The authors describe a longitudinal third- and fourth-year elective, 'The Art of Doctoring', introduced in an attempt to counteract perceived frustration and cynicism in medical students at their home institution during the clinical years. The course goals aimed at helping students to develop self-reflective skills; improve awareness of and ability to modify personal attitudes and behaviors that compromise patient care; increase altruism, empathy and compassion toward patients; and sustain commitment to patient care, service and personal well-being. These goals were accomplished through introduction and development of five skill sets: learning from role models and peers; on-site readings of works by medical student- and physician-authors; self- and other-observation; self-reflective techniques; and case-based problem-solving. The course involved regular in-class exercises and homework assignments, as well as a personal project related to improving personal compassion, caring and empathy toward patients. Students also learned to use a coping algorithm to approach problematic clinical and interpersonal situations. Class discussions revealed three issues of recurring importance to students: loss of idealism, non-compliant patients, and indifferent, harsh or otherwise unpleasant attendings and residents. Quantitative and qualitative student evaluations overall indicated a generally favorable response to the course. Problems and barriers included attendance difficulties and variable levels of student engagement. Future directions for this type of educational intervention are considered, as well as its implications for medical education.

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