Teaching the Psychosocial Aspects of Care in the Clinical Setting: Practical Recommendations

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Communication skills and the psychosocial dimensions of patient care are increasingly taught in medical schools and generalist residency programs. Evidence suggests they are not reinforced or optimally implemented in clinical training. The authors present the product of an iterative process that was part of a national faculty development program and involved both experts and generalist teachers concerning teaching psychosocial medicine while precepting medical students and residents in clinical settings. Using scientific evidence, educational theory, and experience, the authors developed recommendations, presented them in workshops, and revised them based on input from other experts and teachers, who gave feedback and added suggestions. The results are practical, expert consensus recommendations for clinical preceptors on how to teach and reinforce learning in this area. General skills to use in preparing the trainee for improved psychosocial care are organized into the mnemonic “CAARE MORE”: Connect personally with the trainee; Ask psychosocial questions and Assess the trainee's knowledge/attitudes/skills/behaviors; Role model desired attitudes/skills/behaviors; create a safe, supportive, enjoyable learning Environment; formulate specific Management strategies regarding psychosocial issues; Observe the trainee's affect and behavior; Reflect and provide feedback on doctor–patient and preceptor-trainee interactions; and provide Educational resources and best Evidence. The preceptor–trainee teaching skills that are recommended parallel good doctor–patient interaction skills. They can be used during both preceptor–trainee and preceptor–trainee–patient encounters. Important common psychosocial situations that need to be managed in patients include substance abuse, depression, anxiety, somatoform disorder, physical and sexual abuse, and posttraumatic stress disorder. For these problems, where high-level evidence exists, specific psychosocial questions for screening and case finding are provided.

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