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A comparison of medical students' written expressions of emotion and coping and standardized patients' ratings of student professionalism and communication skills.


Little is known about the relationship between medical students' expression of emotion when confronted with a traumatic medical event and their perceived communication skills and professionalism.

Eighty-nine second year medical students participated in an objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) that included a writing exercise. Standardized patients assessed student performance on communication and professionalism. Student writing samples were analysed for emotional language and coping strategies.

Two kinds of written language, high positive and distancing, were related to "active" and "detached" coping methods. Standardized patients rated students who used highly positive emotional language as having poorer professionalism and communication skills. Students who endorsed "accepting" coping were perceived as more professional.

Future research should investigate whether certain emotional expressions in medical students' writings are related to less patient-centered coping, poorer communication skills, and less professionalism.

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