Is it good to express uncertainty to a patient? Correlates and consequences for medical students in a standardized patient visit

Danielle C. Blanch, Judith A. Hall, Debra L. Roter, Richard M. Frankel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: To examine the consequences of expressions of uncertainty (EOUs) in medical student interactions, with a particular focus on the gender of the expressor. Methods: EOUs were identified in 147 videotaped interactions between third-year medical students and standardized patients enacting four medical scenarios. The encounters were also analyzed using the Roter Interaction Analysis System (RIAS). A subset of these interactions was shown to 244 analogue patients who rated satisfaction, liking, and perceived competence and confidence. Results: Female medical students used more EOUs but not when adjusted for total number of statements. The EOU rate varied across scenarios. A higher EOU rate was perceived as more affectively negative by both RIAS trained coders and analogue patients. EOU rate was inversely related to analogue patient satisfaction and liking and this relationship was stronger for males than females. Female student use of EOUs was more strongly associated with ratings of anxiety than was male EOU use. Conclusion: There was an overall negative perception of medical students who expressed uncertainty; however, the strength of the associations varied due to medical student gender. Practice implications: The implications for medical education are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)300-306
Number of pages7
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Volume76
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2009

Keywords

  • Communication
  • Expressions of uncertainty
  • Gender
  • Medical education
  • Medical students
  • RIAS
  • Verbal behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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