Teaching medical students about medically unexplained illnesses: a preliminary study.

Friedberg F, Sohl SJ, Halperin PJ
Med Teach. 2008 30 (6): 618-21

PMID: 18608944 · DOI:10.1080/01421590801946970

BACKGROUND - This study examined how an interactive seminar focusing on two medically unexplained illnesses, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and fibromyalgia, influenced medical student attitudes toward CFS, a more strongly stigmatized illness.

METHODS - Forty-five fourth year medical students attended a 90 minute interactive seminar on the management of medically unexplained illnesses that was exemplified with CFS and fibromyalgia. A modified version of the CFS attitudes test was administered immediately before and after the seminar.

RESULTS - Pre-seminar assessment revealed neutral to slightly favorable toward CFS. At the end of the seminar, significantly more favorable attitudes were found toward CFS in general (t (42) = 2.77; P < 0.01) and for specific items that focused on (1) supporting more CFS research funding (t (42) = 4.32; P < 0.001; (2) employers providing flexible hours for people with CFS (t (42) = 3.52, P < 0.01); and (3) viewing CFS as not primarily a psychological disorder (t (42) = 2.87, P < 0.01). Thus, a relatively brief exposure to factual information on specific medically unexplained illnesses was associated with more favorable attitudes toward CFS in fourth year medical students.

CONCLUSION - This type of instruction may lead to potentially more receptive professional attitudes toward providing care to these underserved patients.

MeSH Terms (16)

Adult Education, Medical Family Practice Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic Female Fibromyalgia Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice Humans Male Pilot Projects Prejudice Problem-Based Learning Program Evaluation Psychiatry Somatoform Disorders Students, Medical

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