Effective communication strategies are required to assess suicide risk. The authors determined whether a 2-hour simulated-patient activity during a psychiatry clerkship improved self-assessment of medical interviewing skills relevant to suicide risk-assessment.
In the 2-hour simulated-patient intervention, at least one psychiatrist, a non-clinician communication expert, and a specifically-trained simulated patient worked with groups of 4–6 students to address student-identified challenges with patient encounters involving suicide risk-assessment. Six of twelve clerkships between July 2010 and October 2011 were assigned to this educational intervention in addition to a communications curriculum.
On a retrospective pre–post self-assessment, the 61 of 118 students assigned to the intervention group reported greater improvements in relevant skills. The process of discovering/responding to patients’ feelings and identifying/addressing verbal and nonverbal cues specifically improved.
The psychiatry clerkship provides a unique opportunity to reinforce and develop communications skills with a formal, skills-based curriculum.