Purpose: The objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) has only occasionally been used as a teaching tool. The authors describe the initial use of an educational innovation consisting of a teaching OSCE used as “sensitizing practice,” followed by personal, guided, and group reflection.
Method: Staff and resident physicians and one medical student (N = 28) at a community hospital’s family medicine residency participated in the innovation during August 2012. The initial use of the educational innovation allowed learners to engage in a potentially challenging conversation with a standardized patient about religion and/or spirituality (R/S). The aim of the innovation was not to equip learners with a particular tactic to introduce or discuss R/S but, rather, to prompt learners to engage in mindful practice with patients who identify R/S as part of their biopsychosocial contexts. Written, dyadic, and group reflection added value to the OSCE by allowing participants to reflect on a difficult learning objective over time.
Results: Participants moved along the stages-of-change continuum when engaging in guided reflection compared with personal reflection. Additionally, all participants provided evidence of at least the preparation stage at the time of guided reflection. By following the OSCE’s sensitizing practice with three periods of reflection, learners were enabled first, to recognize the need for readiness to address challenging communication topics (in this case, R/S) and, second, to reflect on practiced strategies for those conversations.
Conclusions: The educational innovation can help learners become more aware of and skillful in dealing with difficult physician–patient communication topics.