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Future doctors are missing out on this important skill

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Doctors undergo a lot of training in order to diagnose, treat and heal their patients. But there’s one “missed opportunity” a neurologist believes should have more emphasis.

Doctors undergo a lot of training in order to diagnose, treat and heal their patients. But there’s one “missed opportunity” a neurologist believes should have more emphasis.

“Doctors are not trained in communication,” said Dr. Adina Wise, a neurologist at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York.

The traditional model of medical education goes from undergraduate to medical school.

“There’s really an emphasis on learning the foundational concepts, but also on a lot of memorization, so that you can essentially regurgitate that information for exams,” Wise said.

Then there’s the time spent in clinical situations to gain that experience, but Wise said there’s no room in the current model for opportunities for physicians and future doctors to “really take time to hone in on the best ways to communicate both with the public at large, and with patients.”

Wise called that a missed opportunity that is being better taught to students learning other professions.

Not all doctors fall into that category. But some doctors admit they haven’t done a great job responding to those who question them — or even the patients they see one-on-one. Wise admits her own faults as well when it comes to explaining things easily.

But, by and large, she said too many people in the medical profession struggle to communicate to those who may not have the same level of knowledge or understanding that they do — whether it’s in public comments over mass media platforms, or in a one-on-one visit with a patient.

“When one-on-one with patients … you need to have them trust you, and you need them to understand why it’s important that they implement certain lifestyle measures, why it’s important that they take their medications on time,” Wise said.

Failing to establish trust with patients, means “we’re not going to be successful. We’re not going to have high compliance rates, and it’s going to be kind of a fractured relationship.”

Growing suspicion of institutions in the U.S., including that of the medical and scientific community, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, has made people examine them critically and become less hesitant to question authorities in the field.

“We have science mistrust, science distrust on the rise. We have pretty vocal anti-vax movement,” Wise said. “I think it really would behoove the medical community to focus on opportunities for doctors to gain those skills” in communication.

Literature and research on the topic suggests physicians should be communicating to the public “essentially at a fifth-grade reading level,” Wise said. That is so nobody is missed. “We want people with all levels of education to be able to understand what we’re communicating.”

Communicating well is an added demand, especially at a time when doctors are under administrative pressure and when they are expected to see as many patients as they can, which limits the time they spend with each one.

But it’s an obstacle that Wise thinks can be overcome.

“I think that this is an area that people are aware of — people who design medical curriculum,” she admitted. “In the future, with any luck, we will see changes and we will see more of a focus on communication for doctors.”

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© 2023 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.



Doctors undergo a lot of training in order to diagnose, treat and heal their patients. But there’s one “missed opportunity” a neurologist believes should have more emphasis.

Doctors undergo a lot of training in order to diagnose, treat and heal their patients. But there’s one “missed opportunity” a neurologist believes should have more emphasis.

“Doctors are not trained in communication,” said Dr. Adina Wise, a neurologist at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York.

The traditional model of medical education goes from undergraduate to medical school.

“There’s really an emphasis on learning the foundational concepts, but also on a lot of memorization, so that you can essentially regurgitate that information for exams,” Wise said.

Then there’s the time spent in clinical situations to gain that experience, but Wise said there’s no room in the current model for opportunities for physicians and future doctors to “really take time to hone in on the best ways to communicate both with the public at large, and with patients.”

Wise called that a missed opportunity that is being better taught to students learning other professions.

Not all doctors fall into that category. But some doctors admit they haven’t done a great job responding to those who question them — or even the patients they see one-on-one. Wise admits her own faults as well when it comes to explaining things easily.

But, by and large, she said too many people in the medical profession struggle to communicate to those who may not have the same level of knowledge or understanding that they do — whether it’s in public comments over mass media platforms, or in a one-on-one visit with a patient.

“When one-on-one with patients … you need to have them trust you, and you need them to understand why it’s important that they implement certain lifestyle measures, why it’s important that they take their medications on time,” Wise said.

Failing to establish trust with patients, means “we’re not going to be successful. We’re not going to have high compliance rates, and it’s going to be kind of a fractured relationship.”

Growing suspicion of institutions in the U.S., including that of the medical and scientific community, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, has made people examine them critically and become less hesitant to question authorities in the field.

“We have science mistrust, science distrust on the rise. We have pretty vocal anti-vax movement,” Wise said. “I think it really would behoove the medical community to focus on opportunities for doctors to gain those skills” in communication.

Literature and research on the topic suggests physicians should be communicating to the public “essentially at a fifth-grade reading level,” Wise said. That is so nobody is missed. “We want people with all levels of education to be able to understand what we’re communicating.”

Communicating well is an added demand, especially at a time when doctors are under administrative pressure and when they are expected to see as many patients as they can, which limits the time they spend with each one.

But it’s an obstacle that Wise thinks can be overcome.

“I think that this is an area that people are aware of — people who design medical curriculum,” she admitted. “In the future, with any luck, we will see changes and we will see more of a focus on communication for doctors.”

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2023 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

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