Medical Minute: Bedside Manner

Up until 1964, medical students were actually tested on their bedside manner. Forty years later that concept is back with an updated test starting with the class of 2005.

Reed is not a real patient.

"I've been experiencing extreme pain right behind the eyes.

And Kelly is not a real doctor yet.

"Is there a time of day these are worse?"

Kelly is a medical student, and today she's being watched and critiqued by Dr. Paul Wallach, but this test is about more than medical knowledge.

"The bedside manner and the ability to interact properly with people is critical," says Dr. Wallach.

Cameras and microphones capture how Kelly talks to and examines her patient. A recent study shows these physical exams are critical for an accurate diagnosis.

This video test is similar to what will be required for all medical students.

"So, that they can demonstrate not only do they have the book knowledge and are able to answer questions on a multiple choice exam, but in addition, that they can interact with people properly," says Dr. Wallach.

Kelly focuses on putting patients at ease.

One in five patients report problems talking with their doctors. Dr. Wallach suggests patients write down questions, medications and previous tests and dates they were done to bring to each appointment.

"Many times, a portion of an office visit is spent trying to figure out what medications the patient is on, where we are following clues like, 'I take that little blue pill.'"

Since time, or lack of it, is a real problem for many doctors, proper communication is even more important.

For more information, contact:

USMLE Secretary- National Board of Medical Examiners
3750 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-3190
(215) 590-9700
www.usmle.org

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