Category Archives: Generic

Clinical teaching techniques

Set expectations – that most learning happens during daily patient care as part of the team.

Modelling – think aloud, to externalize reasoning (in short spells!)

1-2 minutes direct observation.  Feedback perhaps after a number of episodes – one thing done well, one thing that could be done differently?

Send student ahead (“scouting“).

Self- explanation – without any instructions, student finds own explanations for results, obs, management plan etc.

SNAPPS – summarize case, narrow differential, analyse differential, probe [ask questions] where uncertain, plan, select an issue related to case for self directed learning.  1-2 mins only.

Tell me story backwards – Diagnosis, then supporting evidence, then why other diagnoses excluded.  Only then plan.

Contrastive example – ask student to give alternative diagnosis and balance probabilities.

Post it Pearls – record thoughts (not just pearls!) during clinic/ward round, review at end.

Diagnostic challenge – one person/team defends working diagnosis. Other asks about worse case scenario, or alternative diagnosis, investigations done or not done, and checks with patient themselves!

[Operation Colleague, from University of Glasgow; HPE Bytes]

GIRFEC

Getting it right for every child. A framework for dealing with children and young people, looking at a range of values (SHANARRI).

Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 made provision for Named Person and Child’s plan, but after review in 2019, amid privacy concerns (brought by Christian Institute, among others), government decided not to pursue legislation. Supreme court found that “duty to share information”, although well intentioned, was potentially at odds with article 8 of European convention on Human rights (“Privacy and family life”).

[https://www.gov.scot/publications/getting-right-child-practice-development-panel-report/]

Remote consultations – use of images

Clinical images are part of the medical record. Especially when they are being used to make clinical judgments, they should be retained, which means discussing transfer, storage and use of images.

Transfer – not subject to information governance and data protection rules until received! Whatsapp automatically uses end to end encryption.

Storage – needs to be deleted from your phone/device. NB Whatsapp has option to automatically save to phone. Arrange storage with NHS approved service, or else ask family to retain.

Use – needs specific consent to reproduce in any form, for specified purpose.

Document verbal consent.

If patients are unsure of sharing images, you could try sending illustrative images of the suspected condition.

Remote consultations

Schedule time, rather than fit in between jobs.

Confidentiality: where you are, where they are! “Are you somewhere private?”

Consent before you proceed. “Are you happy for us to talk just now?” “Can you hear me clearly?”

Contemporaneous notes.  Explain why there may be typing noises during conversation.

Beware if not your usual patient, and long term medication/condition.  Consult with GP or other appropriate professionals.

Prob not appropriate where Safeguarding issues or doubt about mental capacity of adults.

“You may need to justify a decision to consult remotely” – not for your convenience!!!

If speaking with a child, use speaker so parents can hear.

Since you can’t see cues and can’t nod in agreement, good to check understanding and summarise what has been said to you.

Say when you will phone back if you need to discuss with someone else.

Easy to become over focussed on one particular issue and forget to assess more fully.

If becomes emotional, respond by showing you have noticed “It sounds as though you are worried/angry/frustrated about…”.  Apologise if becomes hostile.  Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t do.  Avoid pre-empting what someone is going to say.

If parents not reassured, or your assessment of the seriousness of the condition differs from theirs, err on the side of caution and arrange a face to face consultation.

For long term conditions, it may be helpful for family to have a list of concerns before hand.

When ordering tests, discuss how these will be fed back – consider whether likely to need face to face follow up to discuss results and treatment options.

Wait until the other party has hung up.

See also Remote consultations – use of images.

Audit

Process of collecting data against a set of standards, in an attempt to improve compliance with those standards. But often ineffective – especially when no changes made (“closing audit loop”) to improve performance. And slow – by the time you’ve collected the data and summarized it, you’ve wasted time that could be been used to improve things you’ve already seen going wrong.

Often just turns into criticism, with intervention being no more than “perform better”. And then just induces resistance.

Cochrane review of audits in general found median 4.3% improvement with compliance, which isn’t much, but potentially more with incremental gains and repeated audit. And potentially scalable. And about a quarter achieve nothing.

Audit chain only as strong as weakest link – awareness of standards, reliability of processes, feedback.  All aspects of programmed should be designed with a focus on desired change in behaviour, and barriers should be anticipated.

Checklist for doing audit well –

  • Can you recommend actions consistent with established goals and priorities
  • Actions that are under audience’s control?
  • Actions that are specific
  • Can you provide multiple data points as feedback ASAP – and as often as frequency allows
  • Individual as well as general feedback if possible
  • Can you provide comparators that reinforce desired behaviour change
  • Format of feedback – link visuals with summary message, multiple methods, minimize distractions.
  • Actionable plan along with feedback
  • Address barriers
  • Short, actionable message with optional detail
  • Realistic goals.
  • Address credibility. 
  • Anticipate defensive reactions
  • Construct feedback through social interaction

Feedback to clinicians, who all think they’re great, requires careful thought.  Trying to improve already high performance may be a waste of effort, there is a ceiling for most things where organisation close to max capacity.

Patients and the public often surprised by the extent of variation.  They express frustration at difficulties in routinely measuring less technical aspects of care, such as consultation skills and patient centredness.  Patients are an untapped force for change which audit could learn to harness.

[ Revitalising audit, BMJ 2020;368:m213]

Doctor-patient communication

Consultations – patient’s opening chat is interrupted by their doctor after mean 18 secs.  Patient talk for 40% of total consultation time, estimated by doctor at 60%.

Wayne et al 2011 – less info given to poorer and minorities, more dialogue and more informative with better educated, more literate patients

Neumann 2011 – decline in medical empathy: significant through medical school,  further declines through residency.  “Hidden” curriculum? Hardening/cynicism?

Rosenthal 2011 – humanism and professionalism student module, no decline in 3rd year student empathy.

Chen 2012 empathy associated with women, non-technological specialty preference, high debt!

Roter and Hall 2006 – doctors like to retain authority but poor at managing confrontation eg eye contact, picking up emotional cues of distress

Psychodynamic approach – counter transference (disgust, judgemental), counter resistance (non-compliance)

Narrative as diagnosis!  William Osler – the diagnosis is in the story.

Communication and teamwork “skills” underestimates complexity, the affective component.  Only learned if valued, rather than as something to be acquired

Heroic individualism valued in medicine, cf dialogue

Students struggle to make conversation with patients!  Fear of intrusiveness, failure to connect medical issues with psychosocial elements.

Best – learn through active reflection on work based learning (cf how artificial PBL etc are).  Think about values, how they shape communication.  Modelling of democratic values.  Appreciation of complexity of communication.

[ Alan Bleakley, Peninsula medical school – Homer as evidence of honour/shame/face directed behaviours, cf feminine, guilt directed behaviours etc]

Difficult conversations

From “Everything happens for a reason – and other lies I’ve loved” by Kate Bowler:

Appendix 1 – absolutely never say this [my comments added]

  • Well, at least… [minimizing]
  • In my long life, I’ve learned… [good for you, have a medal]
  • It’s going to get better, I promise. [fantasy]
  • God needed an angel [only if you watch Ghost, and you think God is sadistic]
  • Everything happens for a reason. [let’s see if you appreciate my theories when you are drowning]
  • I’ve done some research [have you heard about… Forget what the professionals say, there’s bound to be a secret cure out there]
  • When my aunt had cancer [living it, thanks, would rather not have to relive someone else’s – particularly if this my opportunity to NOT think about it]
  • So how are the treatments going? [not nice to have to summarise it and regurgitate it constantly, please check first if I want to talk about it today, sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t]

Appendix 2 – give this a go

  • I’d love to bring you a meal this week [bring me anything, I don’t really know what I need, what are you good at?]
  • You are a beautiful person [nice to know you are doing a good job – without this being some sort of lesson.  And don’t make it sound like a eulogy]
  • I’m so grateful to hear about how you’re doing, and just know that I’m on your team [nice to not have to give you an update, great that you’re informed and concerned, let’s talk about something else]
  • Can I give you a hug?
  • Oh, my friend, that sounds so hard [sometimes it feels like no one wants to hear about how awful it is – simmer down, let them talk]
  • (silence) [the truth is no one knows what to say – pain, tragedy are awkward.  So show up and shut up)

Sometimes our role is just to sit in the rubble with families (Judith Murray).

See Spiritual Care.

Medical Error

See Bawa-Garba case.

In a complex system, some errors are unavoidable. Their incidence can be reduced by better system design but they cannot be eliminated.

An error may have been the result of a decision, that could have been made differently, but when people are trying to work in an under-resourced and overstretched system, errors may be difficult to avoid.

Deterrence should therefore not involve criminalisation, but those who can influence the system eg managers and service directors.

Many errors are minor and inconsequential, but James Reason’s Swiss Cheese model highlights how a number of errors can align to enable more serious harm to occur.

In cases of “gross negligence”, the prosecution must establish beyond reasonable doubt that the failures caused the death. Unfortunately, a not guilty verdict may suggest that care was adequate. Prosecutions focus on the individual, not on the wider team or the healthcare system.

Good Practice

  • Families should receive open disclosure and an apology
  • If possible, the harm should be treated as a priority
  • When relevant, compensation should be paid
  • Appropriate mechanisms should be in place to hold to account those responsible for delivery of care
  • Punishment may be appropriate but should be proportionate to the moral culpability of the behaviour, not the outcome of complex clinical problems
  • Responses to problems should be timely – complex systems need repeated and rapid adjustment. Not served well by lengthy investigations.
  • Motivated staff should be afforded the safety of a “just culture”, rather than “no blame” or “who’s the one to blame”.
  • Culture of safety from health minister to most junior

Don’t call me brave

Often said to children when they are sad or frightened. But doesn’t help, only makes it seem wrong to have feelings.

Sometimes you need to take a break. And hovering in the doorway doesn’t count.

It can feel like there’s nowhere safe in hospital, that no one understands you. Does being brave mean keeping quiet for the happiness of others?

Instead of calling someone brave, maybe try pointing out that grown ups can feel scared too. Have you explained what the test is for, and why it is needed? Have you apologised for making them upset?

Three strike policy can help an anxious child feel respected and in control.

[Sophie Lyons, BMJ 2018;360:k1299]

Writing a statement

  • Include full name, qualifications, job title and how long you have been doing it.
  • Don’t assume reader knows anything about the case
  • Use first person
  • Who did what, why, when
  • Concentrate on your observations and your understanding (no need for long quotes of what was said to you, which is what a clinical report would require)
  • Say what you found, but also what you looked for and didn’t find
  • If you’re not exactly sure what you did, and nothing documented, acceptable to say “My normal practice would be…”
  • When you have referred to or discussed with someone else, give their name and who they are, describe what they did on the basis of the notes and your understanding, but don’t comment on the adequacy or otherwise of their performance.

[https://www.themdu.com/guidance-and-advice/guides/writing-a-report-for-the-coroner]