SIG – Communication in Surgical Subspecialties

Historically, communication in healthcare has focused on primary care, or other settings where care is longitudinal. Surgical care is different: it is inherently problem-based, often emergent, and based in singular or episodic visits. Thus, the skills that are routinely employed for medical specialties are not directly translatable to surgical care: these skills need to be refined, and in some cases, augmented, based on the demands of surgical care.

Although the importance of “good” communication skills in surgical subspecialties has been documented for the last two decades, the teaching and assessment of communication skills remain underappreciated components of graduate medical training and professional medical practice. Barriers to the routine inclusion of curricula to teach communication skills include the perception that learning these skills is timeconsuming, that limited temporal resources are best directed toward the acquisition of didactic knowledge and temporal skills, and that surgical trainees should already have these skills prior to starting residency.

EACH and its sister organization ACH (Academy on Communication in Healthcare) are professional homes for all members of the healthcare team interested in communication. In particular, these organizations foster a collegial environment within which research can be shared and skills can be taught. As surgeons, however, we are acutely aware of the dearth of research on communication in surgical subspecialties, as well as the lack of opportunities for surgeons to acquire, retain, and refine communication skills pertinent to their interactions with patients. We believe that identifying what communication skills are needed by surgeons, and then teaching those specific skills to a targeted population, would meet the educational needs of surgical subspecialists. Currently, providing a “one size fits most” approach to communication skills teaching, and expecting surgical subspecialists to tease out the most salient points, is inefficient and time-consuming—and supportive of the barriers identified to teaching. Thus, this SIG will focus not only on teaching, but also on basic communication research to identify and share best practices and future directions for content, teaching, and assessment of surgical communication.

This SIG is inclusive, and explicitly encourages membership of anyone interested in studying, teaching, and assessing communication skills in surgery. In addition to researchers and educators with an interest in communication, this SIG is open to all members of the healthcare team, including but not limited to: surgeons, non-surgeon physicians, nurses, medical assistants, social workers, advanced practice providers, and patients and families. We value not only the perspective of each team member about *what* skills are needed to communicate effectively in surgical settings, but also *how* to best teach these skills in parallel with the demands of current surgical training and practice.

As an organization, EACH is the optimal host for this SIG as the EACH membership and annual meeting attendance reflects the diversity of perspectives in healthcare, in particular roles on the healthcare team, practice location, and geographic location.

Aims

  1. Foster research/clinical/educational collaboration between EACH members of different backgrounds with an interest in surgery-related communication.
  2. Identify pertinent topics for communication skill research from the perspectives of the various stakeholders in surgical communication.
  3. Provide expert resources for the development and revision of curricula to teach communication skills to surgeons.

Plan

  1. Increase membership to 50 people worldwide within 3 years.
  2. Identify the three most common communication challenges from the perspective of the patient and provider, and adapt current curricula to reflect these changes.
  3. Identify barriers to implementation of surgeon-specific curricula to teach communication skills, and solutions to these barriers.
  4. Create and validate a communication model for use in surgical consultations.
  5. Identify at least two research questions per year, to be answered through collaborative work of group members.
  6. Maintain blog on EACH website.
  7. Quarterly conference calls/Zoom meetings to discuss research and educational initiatives.
  8. Organize SIG workshops/symposia at EACH/ICCH and ACH meetings.

Kathleen Kieran, MD, MSc, MME
Associate Professor of Urology, Seattle Children’s Hospital/University of Washington
kathleen.kieran@seattlechildrens.org

Muneera R. Kapadia, MD, MME
Associate Professor of Surgery, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
muneera-kapadia@uiowa.edu

Eva Doherty
Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland
edoherty@rcsi.ie

Prof Peter Gillen
RCSI Surgery, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
pgillen@rcsi.ie