Background and objectives: Compared to verbal communication, teaching the skill of observation is often shortchanged in medical education. Through a family medicine-art museum collaboration, we developed an elective course for second-year medical students titled the "Art of Observation" (AOO). To evaluate the course's effect on clinical skills, we performed a qualitative evaluation of former students during their clinical rotations.
Methods: In the spring of 2005, all students who had completed the AOO course in 2003 or 2004 were invited to take part in an online evaluation consisting of eight journaling survey questions. Students were instructed to answer the survey questions with specific examples. Question areas included the most memorable experience, the course's influence on the doctor-patient relationship, usefulness during clinical years of medical school, and skills unique to AOO. The anonymous data were analyzed qualitatively, coding the responses to categories derived from the data, leading to the formation of themes.
Results: Of the 19 students eligible, 17 participated. We found three important themes: (1) the AOO positively influenced clinical skills, (2) both art museum exercises and a clinical preceptorship were necessary to achieve those skills, and (3) the AOO led to a sense of personal development as a physician. In addition, students told us that the training in observation and description skills they learned were unique to the AOO.
Conclusions: This collaboration between a department of family medicine and an art museum produced a course that facilitated observational skills used in successful doctor-patient relationships.