Background: One of the US government health goals outlined in the Healthy People 2010 document (2000) is to increase the number of physicians who counsel their patients regarding unhealthy behaviors. Studies have shown a low rate of physicians provide smoking cessation counseling. We introduced a motivational interviewing curriculum into our medical school for first and third year students and then evaluated the effect of this curriculum on third year students counseling skills.
Methods: The motivational interviewing curriculum was comprised of a lecture series and small group teaching with practice in role plays. The effectiveness of the curriculum was evaluated by student performance in a videotaped interview with a standardized patient who portrayed a smoker. The interview was rated using the Motivational Interviewing Treatment Integrity scoring tool (MITI). The MITI assesses 6 criteria: empathy, MI spirit (autonomy, evocation and collaboration), MI adherence (asking permission, affirmation, emphasis of control and support), MI non adherence (advise, confront and direct), the types of questions (open or closed) and the number of reflections. Secondary outcomes included a knowledge exam related to motivational interviewing and students' evaluations of the effectiveness of the motivational interviewing curriculum.
Results: Analysis of the MITI scores showed that students reached a proficiency level on the rate of reflections, were just below proficiency in assessment of empathy and motivational interviewing spirit and substantially below proficiency in the percent of open ended questions. These proficiency scores were for professional counselors but nevertheless provided us with information on the effectiveness of the new curriculum and where the focus of our teaching should be. On the optional evaluation of the first-year MI curriculum by 112 students, 83% felt that the MI curriculum had helped them be more comfortable in discussing behavior change with patients and 98% felt it was an important skill for physicians to have.