A Comparison of Medical Students’ Written Expressions of Emotion and Coping and Standardized Patients’ Ratings of Student Professionalism and Communication Skills

Johanna Shapiro & Desiree Lie

Although there is increasing interest in how writing that reflects on clinical experience might enhance both medical students’ communication skills and professionalism, little empirical research exists documenting the value of this approach. Some evidence suggests that exposure to such writing can increase medical students’ self-perceived empathy and professionalism (Rucker & Shapiro, 2003; Hatem & Ferrara, 2001; Henderson, 2002), but a recent study investigating the effects of writing a critical incident report concluded that this intervention performed significantly less well than a simple faculty interview in terms of successfully identifying professional issues (Baernstein & Fryer-Edwards, 2003). Other research suggests that writing about traumatic events is related to improved physical and psychological well-being (Smyth et al., 1999).

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