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Communication is key

This will be the mainstay of your teaching. Not only is it effective education, but your trainees really seek getting it. They regard it as essential to a good experience.

Feedback should be thought of as a conversation you have with your trainee about their performance, emphasizing what they are doing well, and how they can improve. To be successful, it should be delivered with these points in mind.

To be most relevant, give your resident your assessment as soon as possible. Immediate (e.g., same day) feedback will have much more of an impact than discussing something that happened last week.

Feedback should be specific. General comments (“Your patient education is poorly done”) are not as helpful as more focused observations (“You tend to use a lot of medical jargon when speaking with patients”). Reserve your remarks for the trainee’s behaviours, and don’t make personal judgements (“You are disorganized”). The feedback should focus on something they can change. Trainees can change their behaviour but can’t be expected to change who they are. 

Feedback needs to be credible. The best way to do this is to base it on something you directly observed. This may be from your having observed the trainee with a patient, or from a review of their charting at the end of the day. A statement like “I see that you are having trouble completing your notes in a timely fashion” would be a good example.

Finally, the feedback should be a conversation, not a lecture or a verdict. Make it interactive. Seek to engage the trainee by asking what they think did well and what they might be feeling uncertain about. If they have a good idea of their own performance you can reinforce their view. If they have some “blind spots,” you can start to address those. Balance the critique with positive statements about what they have mastered so far. Consider a plan for making improvements and decide how you will monitor this.

Your conversation should, in most cases, be private, rather than in front of other trainees or your staff.


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