A family systems curriculum: Evaluating skills and empathy

Rebekah Schiefer, Sheldon Levy, Rebecca Rdesinski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Training residents in family-centered ap-proaches offers an opportunity to investigate how learners translate skills to real clinical encounters. Previous evaluations of a family systems curriculum have relied on self-assessment and narrative reflection to assess resident learning. Assessment of learning using encounter observation and objective tools, including evaluation of empathy, allows for a deeper understanding of how residents transform curricular education into clinical practice. METHODS: We evaluated resident learning from a longitudinal family systems curriculum delivered during the third year of a four-year residency training program. Using the Family-Centered Observation Form (FCOF), we analyzed seven pre-and postcurriculum videotaped encounters for changes in family-centered interviewing skills. We assessed changes in empathy before and after the curriculum using the Jefferson Empathy Scale. RESULTS: There was a trend toward improvement in all family-centered skills, as measured by the FCOF, though the improvements were only statistically significant in the area of rapport building. Statistically significant improvement in empathy occurred for all participants. Narrative reflection demonstrated that residents found the curriculum valuable in ways that we were unable to objectively measure. CONCLUSIONS: Training in family systems can enhance patient interactions and may improve empathy. Evaluation of family-centered skills is challeng-ing and takes a significant amount of time and planning. The FCOF can help learners identify how to use family-centered concepts and skills in a typical family medicine outpatient visit. Further study is needed to determine wheth-er patients seen by doctors who use family-oriented skills have better experiences or outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)54-57
Number of pages4
JournalFamily medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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