University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health Develops Innovative Communication Curriculum for Surgeons

June 3, 2024
Dr. Gretchen Schwarze and her team have developed the Fundamentals of Communication in Surgery (FCS) curriculum, funded by the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, to help surgical trainees navigate difficult treatment decisions and improve patient communication skills.

According to a recent post from the Department of Surgery at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, a multi-institutional team of surgeon educators, led by Dr. Gretchen Schwarze in the Division of Vascular Surgery, collaborated on the development of a five-year curriculum called the Fundamentals of Communication in Surgery, or FCS.

The post says that “With nearly $300,000 in funding from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation over the next three years, Schwarze and her team will now be able to implement the FCS at 10 general surgery residency training programs across the U.S. and evaluate its impact on resident performance, determine the extent to which the curriculum can be scaled across a range of surgical training programs, and then develop a large-scale dissemination plan.”

The post adds that surgeons that treat patients with serious illnesses and/or those who are near the end of life often face very difficult decisions. This curriculum aims to help surgical trainees navigate these challenges.

“The goal of the FCS is to prepare future surgeons to navigate treatment decisions with patients and their families,” said Schwarze. “It builds on two interventions developed and tested in my lab, Best Case/Worst Case and Better Conversations, which support surgeons when they communicate with patients and families.”

Further, “The FSC is designed to be scalable within an already-demanding residency training schedule by providing a single 2-hour session each year for the 5 years of surgical training. The sessions focus on high-impact, targeted core skills that are honed through practice and in-the-moment feedback. Sessions are tailored to the developmental stage of the learner with repetition of important concepts and incrementally more challenging clinical cases over time. The curriculum addresses three primary communication needs: helping surgeons to attend to patients’ emotions, supporting a patient’s ability to make an informed decision, and managing uncertainty.”

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Janette Wider | Editor-in-Chief

Janette Wider is Editor-in-Chief for Healthcare Purchasing News.