The teaching of interpersonal skills in U.S. medical schools

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In response to the increasing recognition of the importance of interpersonal skills (IPS) to the physician, there has recently been a rapid growth in the number and variety of medical school teaching programs in IPS. This is a report of a national survey which was part of a study designed to determine the extent and characteristics of IPS-teaching. Most medical schools have specific IPS programs, 80 percent of which are less than five years old. Most teachers in the programs are psychiatrists and psychologists. Most programs teach process (for example, listening, responding), information-gathering, and psychological intervention (for example, demonstrating empathy) skills. Less than one-third teach any specific information-giving/counseling skills. IPS programs are taught mostly in the preclinical years, with a notable lack of formal follow-through into the clinical years. Ninety percent of the programs use videotechnology in teaching or assessing IPS. Only about one-third use any kind of outcome index for evaluation.

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