Author: Nathan S Bertelsen, Louis Miller, Michelle DallaPiazza, Lisa Altshuler and Antoinette Schoenthaler Publication Year: 2015
Summary: Competencies in both empathy and cross-cultural health care are considered essential skills for physicians. In this study a bedside learning activity was developed and piloted to define and teach empathy for residents to improve clinical skills in cross-cultural patient care.
Description: Introduction Competencies in both empathy and cross-cultural health care are considered essential skills for physicians. A bedside learning activity was developed and piloted to define and teach empathy for residents, in order to improve clinical skills in cross-cultural patient care.

Methods This activity was done on an inpatient medicine teaching service at Bellevue Hospital Center and New York University School of Medicine in New York City. Twenty-nine residents in internal medicine and thirteen faculty participated in one bedside session each. The objective of this exercise was to help the learner utilize empathy to: 1) gauge a patient’s identity and culture; 2) assess health literacy; and 3) change clinical management. Patients with communication barriers were interviewed with the BATHE technique (Stuart, Lieberman, 2008). All participants received anonymous surveys.

Results 76% of participating residents agreed this activity improved their ability to provide cross-cultural care, 87% agreed it assessed their patient’s health literacy, and 87% agreed it changed their clinical management.

Conclusions Empathy offers a promising bedside exercise in which to gauge health literacy and to demonstrate effective cross-cultural patient care. Based on this experience, an instructor’s guide was written for faculty, for use in training residents in empathy and cross-cultural patient care.

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