A standardized patient model to teach and assess professionalism and communication skills: The effect of personality type on performance

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Introduction Teaching and assessing professionalism and interpersonal communication skills can be more difficult for surgical residency programs than teaching medical knowledge or patient care, for which many structured educational curricula and assessment tools exist. Residents often learn these skills indirectly, by observing the behavior of their attendings when communicating with patients and colleagues. The purpose of this study was to assess the results of an educational curriculum we created to teach and assess our residents in professionalism and communication. Methods We assessed resident and faculty prior education in delivering bad news to patients. Residents then participated in a standardized patient (SP) encounter to deliver bad news to a patient's family regarding a severe burn injury. Residents received feedback from the encounter and participated in an education curriculum on communication skills and professionalism. As a part of this curriculum, residents underwent assessment of communication style using the Myers-Briggs type inventory. The residents then participated in a second SP encounter discussing a severe pulmonary embolus with a patient's family. Results Resident performance on the SP evaluation correlated with an increased comfort in delivering bad news. Comfort in delivering bad news did not correlate with the amount of prior education on the topic for either residents or attendings. Most of our residents demonstrated an intuitive thinking style (NT) on the Myers-Briggs type inventory, very different from population norms. Discussion The lack of correlation between comfort in delivering bad news and prior education on the subject may indicate the difficulty in imparting communication and professionalism skills to residents effectively. Understanding communication style differences between our residents and the general population can help us teach professionalism and communication skills more effectively. With the next accreditation system, residency programs would need to demonstrate that residents are acquiring these skills in their training. SP encounters are effective in teaching and assessing these skills.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297-301
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of surgical education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


  • Myers-Briggs
  • communicating bad outcomes
  • standardized patient
  • surgical complications

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Education


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