Effective Informed Consent Communication Skills for Senior Medical Students (Sub-Interns)

Effective Informed Consent Communication Skills for Senior Medical Students (Sub-Interns)
Katharine A. Robb, Hanna D. Zembrzuska, Marcy Rosenbaum
Patient Education and Counseling, April 2023
Obtaining informed consent from patients for procedural tests/treatments is an important communication task for health care providers, involving more than just getting a consent form signed. To ensure that patients have understanding to make informed decisions, effective communication skills are needed in conducting informed consent conversations. Several studies have demonstrated that new postgraduate learners (interns) lack skills to conduct these conversations effectively. Sub-internship rotations aimed at preparing senior medical students for their upcoming role as postgraduate trainees may be an appropriate place to introduce learners to informed consent skills.
We developed an educational intervention on effective informed consent communication skills for sub-interns in Internal Medicine. Educational components included: 1) A pre-workshop self-study module on blood transfusion and joint aspiration; 2) A two-hour experiential workshop on Zoom (or in person) where students learn about and practice effective informed consent conversation communication skills on the two procedures. Each student engages in a consent conversation (7-10 minutes) with a simulated patient while the other students watch, followed by debriefing and learner feedback. Two versions of each case are enacted (“easy” versus “apprehensive” patient) demonstrating how to apply the skills to patients with different reactions and concerns.
Pre-intervention assessments indicating the need for this session included data from entering intern OSCEs (N=33 over 3 years) in which interns scored lowest on the informed consent station and a needs assessment survey revealing sub-interns (N=24) desired formal training in informed consent skills. A post-intervention evaluation survey revealed all participating sub-interns found being able to practice, receive feedback and observe others practice was helpful in enhancing their informed consent skills. A pre-post retrospective survey will collect evaluation data from subsequent sessions.
Time efficient experiential informed consent sessions are feasible to help better prepare senior learners for these important conversations and shared decision making.

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