Physicians spend much of their time listening and responding to patients'
concerns. Studies have found, however, that clinicians' interpersonal skills
are not always as good as their patients might wish.1,2 In
response, several medical organizations have called for improved training
and competence in communication skills. The Association of American Medical
Colleges, for instance, has included "communication in medicine" as a central
aspect of its Medical Schools Outcomes Project, which is intended to guide
curricula in all US medical schools.3 Beginning
in 2004, the National Board of Medical Examiners will require all US medical
students to travel to a testing center for an evaluation of their clinical
skills, including communication.4 The Accreditation
Council for Graduate Medical Education now requires all US residency programs
to provide instruction in "interpersonal and communication skills."5 By the time this year's class of entering medical
students will have completed their residencies, they may find that their interpersonal
skills will be subject to lifelong examination. In a recent address to the
American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), Baird6 stated
that "an expanded assessment of interpersonal and communication skills would
be a useful new endeavor for ABMS."
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