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Effect of an empathy intervention on student performance of options counseling

Angela Shaddeau, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Anschutz Medical Campus, 2012

Project abstract

During the Women's Care 3rd year clerkship, University of Colorado medical students receive one didactic session on abortion. This lecture focuses on surgical techniques and medication protocols and is followed by a case discussion addressing the ethical dilemmas a physician may face when a patient requests pregnancy termination. Students are not specifically trained in options counseling, nor are they required to participate in a clinical experience centering on abortion care. Therefore, their first experience with options counseling is typically in the general clinic setting, when unexpectedly faced with emotional patients diagnosed with an unplanned pregnancy.

During this study, students will be randomly assigned to an empathy intervention or routine curriculum group. We hypothesize that the empathy intervention at the beginning of the block will enhance students' competence and confidence with options counseling. The anticipated increased comfort level in the intervention group will translate into students actively participating in options counseling throughout the rotation, more autonomy in these situations, and increased awareness regarding the need to explore patients' desires when diagnosed with an unintended pregnancy.

At the end of the block, all students will undergo an OSCE (objective structured clinical experience) to evaluate their competence with options counseling. A survey assessing their comfort level will also be administered. The objective and subjective results of the two groups will be compared to determine if the empathy intervention affected OSCE scores and self-reported comfort levels with options counseling.

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