Telling the truth: Medical students' progress with an ethical skill.
Med Teach. 2014 Feb 5;
Authors: Layat-Burn C, Hurst SA, Ummel M, Cerutti B, Baroffio A
Background: Truth-telling is a complex task requiring multiple skills in communication, understanding, and empathy. Its application in the context of breaking bad news (BBN) is distressing and problematic if conducted with insufficient skills. Purpose: We investigated the long-term influence of a simulated patient-based teaching intervention integrating the learning of communication skills within an ethical reflection on students' ethical attitudes towards truth-telling, perceived competence and comfort in BBN. Methods: We followed two cohorts of medical students from the preclinical third year to their clinical rotations (fifth year). We analysed their ethical attitudes and level of comfort and competence in BBN before, after the intervention, and during clinical rotations. Results: Students' ethical attitudes towards truth-telling remained stable. Students feeling uncomfortable or incompetent improved their level of perceived comfort or competence after the intervention, but those feeling comfortable or competent became more aware of the difficulty of the situation, and consequently decreased their level of comfort and competence. Conclusions: Confronting students with a realistic situation and integrating the practice of communication skills within an ethical reflection may be effective in maintaining ethical attitudes towards truth-telling, in developing new skills and increasing awareness about the difficulty and challenges of a BBN situation.
PMID: 24499052 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]