What Makes "Difficult Patients" Difficult for Medical Students?

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What Makes "Difficult Patients" Difficult for Medical Students?

Acad Med. 2018 May 02;:

Authors: Steinauer JE, O'Sullivan P, Preskill F, Ten Cate O, Teherani A

PURPOSE: Physicians can find it challenging to provide high-quality care to "difficult patients." While studies support that medical students also find some patients "difficult," little is known about why they do or how being a student affects their perceptions. The authors conducted this study to gain a deeper understanding of students' experiences with "difficult patients" to inform clinical teaching about effective patient communication and patient-centered care.
METHOD: In 2016, the authors conducted interviews with fourth-year medical students, who were asked to describe patient interactions in which they felt negative emotions toward the patient, as well as describe the clinical setting and their feelings. The authors audiorecorded and transcribed the interviews. Then, using a constructivist grounded theory approach, they reviewed the transcripts, coded the data using a codebook they had developed, and grouped the codes into themes.
RESULTS: Twenty-six students (of 44 volunteers and 180 students invited) were interviewed. Students described negative feelings toward patients and patients' behaviors, which were exacerbated by three situations related to their role and expectations as learners: (1) patients' interference with students' ability to "shine"; (2) patients' interference with students' expectations of patient-centered care; and (3) students' lack of the tools or authority to improve patients' health.
CONCLUSIONS: Educators should consider these findings, which can be explained by the professional identity formation and goal orientation theory frameworks, as they teach medical students to provide high-quality care for patients they find "difficult."

PMID: 29727319 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

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