Simulated medical consultations with standardized patients: In-depth debriefing based on dealing with emotions
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AbstractABSTRACT In general, students have few opportunities to address their emotions under the guidance of an experienced physician, which can undermine their self-confidence to deal with real patients in stressful situations. Emotional detachment and cynicism are defense mechanisms, which can emerge as a consequence. The consolidation of a professional identity committed to patients’ interests can become a challenge when medical students are not comfortable in their role as caregivers. In general, we consider that the undergraduate medical curriculum has been insufficient in providing appropriate environments for students to reflect on professional identity formation and on the future challenges of their profession. Objective: To develop an in-depth debriefing to address students’ emotions and professional identity formation in the context of a simulation activity with simulated patients at a medical school in Brazil. Methods: The authors conducted a simulated medical consultation activity using standardized patients (SPs) with an in-depth debriefing based on the feelings of the patient and the student. During each encounter the formation and consolidation of professional identity was discussed. Fourth- and sixth-year medical students (n=551) participated and answered a questionnaire about the activity and the learning outcome. Results: The students felt comfortable during the activity, due to "openness to dialogue", "proximity with colleagues and teachers" and the "judgment-free environment". More than 90% reported that what they had learned would be useful in their professional and personal lives, providing a greater "understanding of emotions", "empathy", "ability to listen" and "ability to deal with conflicts". More than half of them were motivated to study, especially "doctor-patient relationship", "treatment", "common diseases" and "medicine in general". Students considered the activity important for retrieving the initial reasons that had led them to embarking on the medical profession in the first place. Conclusions: Reflecting on disease and its impact on patients’ daily life may motivate learning in medicine, allowing for the recovery of the personal and social meaning of its practice. In-depth debriefing was important to nurture professional identity committed to empathy and patients’ interests. Activities planned to discuss the influence and importance of emotions in medical practice can help students to reconcile personal and professional identities.