TCOM gives medical students unique training in patient communication

Medical students learn far more about how disease changes a life when they talk to real patients. That’s why UNTHSC’s  Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine invites people with various health conditions to its Fort Worth campus to be interviewed by these physicians-in-training.

“We are unique in using actual patients to train students in clinical communication,” said Susan Franks, PhD, Associate Professor of Family Medicine. “We need more patients to volunteer – those with kidney conditions, heart conditions, lung and respiratory conditions, diabetes, leukemia and lymphoma and other concerns.”

If you come in to be interviewed, you will be paid $50 for an afternoon. No physical exam is required. Your willingness to share your medical history deepens students’ understanding of how disease affects quality of life.

“A principle of osteopathic practice is treating the whole patient, managing day-to-day impact of the disease,” Dr. Franks said. “You don’t get that readily from a biomedical textbook or from lab reports.”

Second-year TCOM student Jennifer Brekke agrees.

“In the interviews, I see how illness affects real people,” she said. “They’re not just a group of symptoms. I learn how a person’s daily life and physical, mental and emotional status is changed by a diagnosis.”

Said Dr. Franks, “Our patient-interviewees know they’re helping educate future doctors. People want to be understood; to be understood by your physician is truly being cared for.”

Echoing that sentiment is interviewee Beulah Nash, a retired licensed vocational nurse with multiple health conditions.

“I’m so glad to be able to help in some small way,” she said. “I’m happy to be a part of their education, and it’s helpful to me, talking with the students. One of the students saw me outside the elevator after interviewing me and said, ‘I was thinking about your case and about how it has affected you.’ And I told him, ‘You’re going to make a good doctor.'”

Nash, who worked as an LVN from 1994 to 2005, said she wishes she had been given an opportunity to interview patients during her training. She calls the UNT Health Science Center “a godsend to students.”

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