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Learning Tool Aids Residents' Care of Substance Abuse

Improved attitudes, communication skills towards substance abuse disorders seen

THURSDAY, Oct. 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A learning model and discussion can improve residents' attitudes and communication skills towards patients with substance abuse disorders (SUDs), according to a study published online Oct. 7 in Academic Medicine.

Paul N. Lanken, M.D., from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues randomized 129 internal and family medicine residents and 370 medical students at two medical schools to a two-part intervention as part of the SUD curricula. A self-directed media-rich, Internet-based learning module and a small-group, faculty-led debriefing were the two components of the intervention. Real-time, web-based interviews of standardized patients were used to assess residents' changes in communication skills.

The researchers found that the intervention and control groups for residents and students were similar at baseline with respect to attitudes towards patients with SUDs. Residents in the intervention group had more positive attitudes toward treatment efficacy and self-efficacy at follow-up (P < 0.006), compared to controls, but students did not. Similarly, residents in the intervention group received higher scores on screening and counseling skills during the standardized patient interview at follow-up (P = 0.0009), compared with residents in the control group.

"The difference in findings among students and residents is important to note," a coauthor said in a statement. "The results emphasize that educators need to take into account a trainee's stage of professional development and competence when considering how and when to introduce new educational material."

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