Purpose: Humanistic care is regarded as important by patients and professional accrediting agencies, but little is known about how attitudes and behaviors in this domain are taught in clinical settings. To answer this question, the authors studied how excellent clinical teachers impart the behaviors and attitudes consistent with humanistic care to their learners.
Method: Using an observational, qualitative methodology, the authors studied 12 clinical faculty identified by the medical residents enrolled from 2003 to 2004 as excellent teachers of humanistic care on the inpatient medical services at four medical universities in the United States (University of Minnesota Medical School, Emory University, University of Rochester School of Medicine, and Baylor College of Medicine). Observations were conducted by the authors using standardized field notes. After each encounter, the authors debriefed patients, learners (residents and medical students), and the teaching physicians in semistructured interviews.
Results: Clinical teachers taught primarily by role modeling. Although they were highly aware of their significance as role models, they did not typically address the human dimensions of care overtly. Despite the common themes of role modeling identified, each clinical teacher exhibited unique teaching strategies. These clinical teachers identified self-reflection as the primary method by which they developed and refined their teaching strategies.
Conclusions: Role modeling is the primary method by which excellent clinical teachers try to teach medical residents humanistic aspects of medical care. Although clinical teachers develop unique teaching styles and strategies, common themes are shared and could be used for the future development of clinical faculty.