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'It gives you an understanding you can't get from any book.' The relationship between medical students' and doctors' personal illness experiences and their performance: a qualitative and quantitative study.

Woolf K, Cave J, McManus IC, Dacre JE - BMC Med Educ (2007)

Bottom Line: Anecdotes abound about doctors' personal illness experiences and the effect they have on their empathy and care of patients.The majority of the medical students and newly qualified doctors we studied reported personal illness experiences, and these experiences were associated with lower undergraduate examination results, higher anxiety, and lower preparedness.However reflection on such experiences may have improved professional attitudes such as empathy and compassion for patients.

View Article: PubMed Central - HTML - PubMed

Affiliation: Academic Centre for Medical Education, Royal Free and University College Medical School, 4th Floor, Holborn Union Building, Archway Campus, Highgate Hill, London N19 5LW, UK. k.woolf@medsch.ucl.ac.uk

ABSTRACT

Background: Anecdotes abound about doctors' personal illness experiences and the effect they have on their empathy and care of patients. We formally investigated the relationship between doctors' and medical students' personal illness experiences, their examination results, preparedness for clinical practice, learning and professional attitudes and behaviour towards patients.

Methods: Newly-qualified UK doctors in 2005 (n = 2062/4784), and two cohorts of students at one London medical school (n = 640/749) participated in the quantitative arm of the study. 37 Consultants, 1 Specialist Registrar, 2 Clinical Skills Tutors and 25 newly-qualified doctors participated in the qualitative arm. Newly-qualified doctors and medical students reported their personal illness experiences in a questionnaire. Doctors' experiences were correlated with self-reported preparedness for their new clinical jobs. Students' experiences were correlated with their examination results, and self-reported anxiety and depression. Interviews with clinical teachers, newly-qualified doctors and senior doctors qualitatively investigated how personal illness experiences affect learning, professional attitudes, and behaviour.

Results: 85.5% of newly-qualified doctors and 54.4% of medical students reported personal illness experiences. Newly-qualified doctors who had been ill felt less prepared for starting work (p < 0.001), but those who had only experienced illness in a relative or friend felt more prepared (p = 0.02). Clinical medical students who had been ill were more anxious (p = 0.01) and had lower examination scores (p = 0.006). Doctors felt their personal illness experiences helped them empathise and communicate with patients. Medical students with more life experience were perceived as more mature, empathetic, and better learners; but illness at medical school was recognised to impede learning.

Conclusion: The majority of the medical students and newly qualified doctors we studied reported personal illness experiences, and these experiences were associated with lower undergraduate examination results, higher anxiety, and lower preparedness. However reflection on such experiences may have improved professional attitudes such as empathy and compassion for patients. Future research is warranted in this area.

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Mentions: Third, but not first, year students reported serious illness, injury or assault were more anxious than those who did not (t = 2.54; df = 318; p = 0.012). The effect size was small to medium at d = 0.29. Students who reported serious illness, injury or assault in the previous year were statistically significantly more anxious than those who had had such an experience more than three years previously or not at all (z = -3.48; p = 0.001; d = 0.45;), or 1–2 years previously (z = -2.89 p = 0.003; d = 0.93). There were only 12 students in this last group, and therefore caution should be taken in the interpretation of this result (Figure 2).


'It gives you an understanding you can't get from any book.' The relationship between medical students' and doctors' personal illness experiences and their performance: a qualitative and quantitative study.

Woolf K, Cave J, McManus IC, Dacre JE - BMC Med Educ (2007)

© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC2211477&req=5

Mentions: Third, but not first, year students reported serious illness, injury or assault were more anxious than those who did not (t = 2.54; df = 318; p = 0.012). The effect size was small to medium at d = 0.29. Students who reported serious illness, injury or assault in the previous year were statistically significantly more anxious than those who had had such an experience more than three years previously or not at all (z = -3.48; p = 0.001; d = 0.45;), or 1–2 years previously (z = -2.89 p = 0.003; d = 0.93). There were only 12 students in this last group, and therefore caution should be taken in the interpretation of this result (Figure 2).

Bottom Line: Anecdotes abound about doctors' personal illness experiences and the effect they have on their empathy and care of patients.The majority of the medical students and newly qualified doctors we studied reported personal illness experiences, and these experiences were associated with lower undergraduate examination results, higher anxiety, and lower preparedness.However reflection on such experiences may have improved professional attitudes such as empathy and compassion for patients.

View Article: PubMed Central - HTML - PubMed

Affiliation: Academic Centre for Medical Education, Royal Free and University College Medical School, 4th Floor, Holborn Union Building, Archway Campus, Highgate Hill, London N19 5LW, UK. k.woolf@medsch.ucl.ac.uk

ABSTRACT

Background: Anecdotes abound about doctors' personal illness experiences and the effect they have on their empathy and care of patients. We formally investigated the relationship between doctors' and medical students' personal illness experiences, their examination results, preparedness for clinical practice, learning and professional attitudes and behaviour towards patients.

Methods: Newly-qualified UK doctors in 2005 (n = 2062/4784), and two cohorts of students at one London medical school (n = 640/749) participated in the quantitative arm of the study. 37 Consultants, 1 Specialist Registrar, 2 Clinical Skills Tutors and 25 newly-qualified doctors participated in the qualitative arm. Newly-qualified doctors and medical students reported their personal illness experiences in a questionnaire. Doctors' experiences were correlated with self-reported preparedness for their new clinical jobs. Students' experiences were correlated with their examination results, and self-reported anxiety and depression. Interviews with clinical teachers, newly-qualified doctors and senior doctors qualitatively investigated how personal illness experiences affect learning, professional attitudes, and behaviour.

Results: 85.5% of newly-qualified doctors and 54.4% of medical students reported personal illness experiences. Newly-qualified doctors who had been ill felt less prepared for starting work (p < 0.001), but those who had only experienced illness in a relative or friend felt more prepared (p = 0.02). Clinical medical students who had been ill were more anxious (p = 0.01) and had lower examination scores (p = 0.006). Doctors felt their personal illness experiences helped them empathise and communicate with patients. Medical students with more life experience were perceived as more mature, empathetic, and better learners; but illness at medical school was recognised to impede learning.

Conclusion: The majority of the medical students and newly qualified doctors we studied reported personal illness experiences, and these experiences were associated with lower undergraduate examination results, higher anxiety, and lower preparedness. However reflection on such experiences may have improved professional attitudes such as empathy and compassion for patients. Future research is warranted in this area.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus