See one, be one, teach one: faculty use of their personal health narratives in teaching


Aurora UW Medical Faculty


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Despite extensive examination of physician self-disclosure to patients and colleagues, no studies have directly investigated if physician faculty disclose personal health information to trainees for clinical teaching purposes. This study examines the types of personal medical information (personal health narratives) family medicine faculty use during resident teaching encounters and the beliefs of family medicine faculty about such disclosure.

METHODS: Due to the exploratory nature of this study, the authors relied upon the triangulation of qualitative research methods to verify the use of and purpose for sharing personal health narratives by family physician faculty during teaching encounters. Direct observation, depth interviews, an attitude survey, and focus groups were sequentially used to evoke their beliefs about the purpose, benefits, and risks of sharing personal health narratives with residents.

RESULTS: Ninety-eight percent of survey respondents acknowledged using personal health narratives in teaching, and half reported doing so infrequently. A large majority considered the practice an effective teaching method, but respondents were divided on potential risks. Focus group participants believed that disclosing health information is a powerful teaching method that should be utilized purposefully. Participants identified a need for guidance on how to effectively incorporate personal health narratives during teaching.

CONCLUSIONS: The use of personal health narratives in teaching is well accepted among the physician faculty in this study. Although participants endorsed the practice, none had been trained to integrate self-disclosure in teaching, and most had not consciously considered the limits and risks of sharing their health histories with residents. Further research is needed to determine the prevalence, range, and depth of faculty disclosure in teaching and to assess the impact on learners.

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