Rationale for Another Teaching Skills Manual
Many excellent teaching manuals exist that focus on skills for small group facilitation, skills for teaching interviewing, and skills for working with adult learners. We have read and learned from many of these volumes; you will see them referenced throughout the Modules here and in the Resources for Teaching Annotated Bibliography. Despite the significant contributions of these works, we were still left with a sense that something was missing. This teaching toolbox aims to fill that gap.
We focus on teaching complex communication skills beyond basic interviewing techniques. Because these communication skills take the doctor and patient into territory of ethics, the conversations can be difficult and often emotionally charged. Teachers need different skills to help guide learners through this tough terrain. The conversations are tough, not just for the doctors, but for the teachers as well. The tools we provide here should help give teachers a foundation for entering and engaging in this difficult terrain.
Many argue that ethics and communication cannot be taught. Since these skills lie in the realm of the interpersonal, they do build on skills and practices we begin developing from our earliest interactions. However, evidence shows that practice and experience can lead to development and enhancement of these skills. This human element is where the moral work of medicine happens. We have a responsibility to attend to these skills and work to develop them, even as we strive to perfect our other core clinical skills. Quality patient care depends on it.
Teaching future medical professionals is a gift. When we interact with students, residents, fellows, or colleagues, we have many opportunities to learn and grow ourselves, in addition to promoting growth in others. We have approached this work of teaching by thinking about it as a service. We are not there to impart knowledge or impress others. We are there, working with learners, because we are genuinely interested in helping them become better doctors. Ultimately, attending to the interests of physicians-in-training will promote better patient care.