Physician-patient interaction skills are predominantly taught by successful role modeling but are rarely evaluated formally and systematically. This study describes a new model for the assessment of student physician-patient interaction skills and reports results of use in 78 third-year medical students on clerkships at two institutions. A single nurse instructor at each institution evaluated these skills using an 18-item checklist during student performance of wound care and dressing changes. Students were focused on the evaluation of their technical skills and were unaware of the evaluation of their interaction skills. Immediate feedback on performance was provided. The mean percentage score for the interaction skills was 35%, and no improvement was noted with greater clinical experience (later rotations). We conclude that there is a striking deficiency in physician-patient interaction skills among third-year students. The model described is effective for both evaluation and feedback.
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