Doctors-in-training are in need of a dose of compassion.
That’s according to a new study from Johns Hopkins University showing that young doctors in their first year out of medical school are unlikely to take the time to introduce themselves to hospitalized patients, or to sit and have an eye-to-eye conversation with patients. That’s concerning, considering research shows that how a doctor treats patients at their bedside can improve a patient’s recovery and lead to greater patient satisfaction.
Trained observers monitored 29 internal medicine interns who were in their first year after medical school at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and the University of Maryland Medical Center for three weeks. The observers recorded whether the interns used five valued communication skills like introducing themselves, explaining their role to the patient, touching the patient, asking open-ended questions like, “How are you feeling today?,” and sitting down with the patient for a conversation.
In some areas, interns scored high. For instance, they touched their patients 65 percent of the time (though that was sometimes in the process of giving physical exams) and asked open-ended questions 75 percent of the time during hospital visits. But interns only introduced themselves 40 percent of the time and explained their medical role 37 percent of the time. The interns sat down with their patients only 9 percent of the time.
In total, interns only performed all five behaviors during just 4 percent of their visits.
“It’s no wonder patients don’t feel connected to what we are telling them, because many times we are not doing as much as we could to make that connection,” said study co-author Dr. Lauren Block, a former general internal medicine fellow at Johns Hopkins in a statement. The research was published online this month in the Journal of Hospital Medicine.