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Integrating Storytelling into a Communication Skills Teaching Program for Medical Oncology Fellows.

Authors
  • Shaw, Andrew C1, 2
  • McQuade, Jennifer L3
  • Reilley, Matthew J2, 4
  • Nixon, Burke5
  • Baile, Walter F6
  • Epner, Daniel E7
  • 1 Texas Oncology, 1401 Medical Parkway, Cedar Park, TX, 78613, USA.
  • 2 University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, 77030, USA.
  • 3 Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA.
  • 4 Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA, USA.
  • 5 Program in Writing and Communication, Rice University, Houston, TX, USA.
  • 6 Department of Behavioral Science, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA.
  • 7 Department of Palliative, Rehabilitation & Integrative Medicine, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1400 Pressler, Unit 1414, Houston, TX, 77030, USA. [email protected]
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of Cancer Education
Publisher
Springer-Verlag
Publication Date
Dec 01, 2019
Volume
34
Issue
6
Pages
1198–1203
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s13187-018-1428-3
PMID: 30219971
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

Oncology training focuses primarily on biomedical content rather than psychosocial content, which is not surprising in light of the enormous volume of technical information that oncology fellows assimilate in a short time. Nonetheless, the human connection, and specifically communication skills, remains as important as ever in caring for highly vulnerable patients with cancer. We previously described a year-long communication skills curriculum for oncology fellows that consisted of monthly 1-hour seminars with role play as the predominant teaching method (Epner and Baile, Acad Med. 89:578-84, 2014). Over several years, we adapted the curriculum based on learner feedback and reflection by faculty and teaching assistants and consolidated sessions into quarterly 3-4-hour workshops. We now describe integrating stories into the curriculum as a way of building empathy and warming fellows to the arduous task of dealing with highly emotional content, such as conversations with young patients about transitioning off disease-directed therapy. Learners read and discussed published, medically themed stories; discussed their own patient care stories; and completed brief writing reflections and discussions. They then worked in small groups facilitated by faculty and upper level fellows who functioned as teaching assistants to work on applying specific skills and strategies to scenarios that they chose. Fellows completed anonymous surveys on which they rated the curriculum highly for relevance, value, organization, content, and teaching methods, including storytelling aspects. We conclude that sharing stories can help highly technical learners build reflective ability, mindfulness, and empathy, which are all critical ingredients of the art of medicine.

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