The Reporter
Issue no 485 | 28 October 2002
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Teaching medics to have open minds
 

A ground-breaking programme helping student medics explore their attitudes and prejudices has won a prestigious BUPA award for medical communication worth £10,000.

The module opens students’ eyes to the special needs and problems of different sections of the population, such as elderly and gay people, female prostitutes, people with disabilities and those from different ethnic communities.

“We use facilitators from outside organisations, such as a theatre group run by people with learning disabilities, to hold interactive workshops looking at people from diverse backgrounds, but in a mainly non-medical way,” explained Dr Thistlethwaite (below - right) , who runs the module. “The idea is to get students thinking about their own attitudes, and also to imagine how it feels for certain people to access health care services, be they deaf, a victim of domestic violence, a drug addict or suffering from mental health problems.”

Barry Ewart and Jill Thistlewaite

General Medical Council guidelines now state that doctors should ‘not allow views about a patient’s lifestyle, culture, beliefs, sex, sexuality, age, social status or perceived economic worth to prejudice treatment’. By challenging stereotypes, the personal and professional development module is helping to make this a reality, as students themselves testify. “Perhaps the most enduring lesson I learnt was to see the person,” said one student. “A patient could be a mother, father, brother or sister, husband or wife, with hopes and expectations.”
“Being aware of these issues will be of great importance when I will have to use my own judgement in assessing different situations and help me develop tolerance and sensitivity in my treatment of people with different values to myself,” said another.

“We need to assess whether the more positive attitudes expressed by some students will continue to be held once they are interacting with patients in a clinical setting,” said module coordinator, Barry Ewart (above, left). “We plan to use the award money to follow-up the workshops with sessions where the students can practice their communication skills with simulated patients.”

 
 


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