Clinical competence and physiological knowledge alone do not make good doctors. Two postdoctoral staff members at the Centre for Health Professions Education (CHPE) at Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences will be sharing their research on this issue on an international platform.
Drs Lakshini McNamee and Elize Archer are both involved in researching Health Professions Education and have been selected as two of only 14 doctoral graduates to present their work at the prestigious Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE) Conference in Helsinki in August. AMEE is an annual event that brings together delegates from some 90 countries around various topics in this field.
Archer's research focusses on patient-centeredness and provides insight into the teaching and learning of this skill.
"Communication skills, often called 'soft skills', need to be relooked and perhaps renamed 'hard skills', since it's essential for both patient satisfaction and the healthcare practitioner's wellbeing and job satisfaction," she explains.
"Evidence suggests that with the development of science and treatment options, doctors tend to become fixated on the biomedical aspects of disease and often neglect the patient as a human being. Studies also report that students become less patient-centered between entering and finishing medical school." Archer says this is reason for concern when considering the undergraduate medical curriculum as well as services rendered to patients.
Her goal is to be involved in curriculum and Faculty development initiatives around communication skills. "I'd appreciate the opportunity to be able to work with lecturers to utilise 'role modelling' as a deliberate teaching strategy, while at the same time encouraging students to adopt a reflective approach when deciding which role model behaviours are worthy of imitating."
McNamee also has a keen personal interest in developing "good" doctors. She will be presenting her study about medical internship experiences of newly qualified doctors (NQDs) in South Africa at the conference, focussing on how novice practitioners negotiate their learning and identities as practitioners.
"Healthcare systems depend on NQDs to provide a service, especially in the public sector, but little is theorised about their lived experience," she explains.
Her study explores the networks of relationships, both interpersonal and with various organisations, which play a key role in shaping how medical interns learn and self-identify.
By presenting her work at AMEE and disseminating her study findings, she hopes to enable a better approach towards the organisation of medical internship. "Mutual recognition is needed between NQDs and managers of health care systems in order to achieve this goal."
McNamee and Archer are both excited to attend the AMEE conference. "It's a tremendous opportunity to meet educators and researchers with similar interests, particularly those who recognise the value of using research methods from human and social sciences in medical education," says McNamee.
Archer agrees. "Because the competition is so strong, I have only been able to present posters in the past. To have an opportunity to present a PhD report orally is a huge privilege. I hope to establish more contacts and perhaps identify individuals with whom I can collaborate in future."
Caption: The CHPE's Drs Lakshini McNamee and Elize Archer will present their doctoral research at the Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE) Conference in Helsinki in August.