Purpose: Competence in the psychosocial aspects of medical care is necessary for primary care physicians to function effectively. This study investigated the psychosocial training internal medicine and family practice residents receive in U.S. programs.
Methods: In 1996, program directors of all U.S. internal medicine (IM) and family practice (FP) residency programs were surveyed regarding the format, content, and quantity of psychosocial training provided in their programs, their opinions on topics related to psychosocial training, and demographics of their programs.
Results: The response rate was 61%. Ninety-nine percent of FP and 62% of IM program directors reported requiring at least one psychosocial training experience. Family practice programs required an average of 352 hours (SD +/- 175; range 27-2,664) of psychosocial training compared with 118 hours (SD +/- 272; range 0-1,050) for IM programs. Most IM and FP program directors expected residents to achieve at least basic competency in virtually all psychosocial topic areas; however, FP programs provided a greater range of psychosocial experiences. FP program directors most often identified psychologists and IM program directors most often identified internists as providing the most psychosocial training in their programs. Both IM and FP program directors considered lack of curricular time to be the main obstacle to development of psychosocial training.
Conclusion: Residents' competence in psychosocial areas is important to both IM and FP program directors. However, content and time devoted to psychosocial training vary considerably both within and between program types.