A Cross-Specialty Examination of Resident Error Disclosure and Communication Skills Using Simulation

J Grad Med Educ. 2018 Aug;10(4):438-441. doi: 10.4300/JGME-D-17-00603.1.


Background : Disclosure of medical errors is important to patients and physicians, but formal disclosure training during the graduate medical education curriculum is limited.

Objective : We examined resident competence related to error disclosure, using standardized patient (SP) ratings of resident communication skills.

Methods : All first-year residents from medicine, radiology, emergency medicine, orthopedic surgery, and neurological surgery completed a 20-minute simulated session in which they were provided background information on a medical error they had made and were asked to disclose the error to an SP acting as a family member. Residents were then debriefed and completed a postscenario questionnaire. The SPs completed an 11-item communication assessment and 3 milestone rating tools on professionalism (PROF-1, PROF-3) and interpersonal and communication skills (ICS-1).

Results : Ninety-six residents from a single institution participated toward the end of the intern year. Communication assessment scores ranged from 23% to 100% (mean [SD], 80.6 [17.0]). Mean (SD) milestone ratings across specialties were 2.80 ± 0.92 for PROF-1, 2.48 ± 0.92 for PROF-3, and 2.45 ± 0.92 for ICS-1. One-way analysis of variance revealed no significant differences among specialties on milestone or communication ratings. Residents who accepted personal responsibility for the error (84.55 [14.06]) received significantly higher communication ratings from SPs compared with residents who did not (66.67 [19.52], P < .001).

Conclusions : This SP assessment of error disclosure by first-year residents from multiple specialties was feasible and acceptable. It revealed areas of improvement as well as considerable variation in communication skills and professionalism among residents.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Communication*
  • Curriculum
  • Educational Measurement / methods*
  • Emergency Medicine / education
  • General Surgery / education
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Medical Errors*
  • Neurology / education
  • Orthopedics / education
  • Patient Simulation
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Physicians
  • Professional Competence*
  • Specialization
  • Surgeons / education
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Truth Disclosure*