The hidden curriculum involves learning that comes through observation of faculty attitudes and behaviors, including those directed toward trainees, colleagues and patients. The hidden curriculum is not explicitly laid out for faculty, but depends on a program’s culture and the individual sense of responsibility each faculty member feels for role modeling good habits and behaviors.
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Explore This IssueJuly 2022
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As trainees progress from novice to more expert clinician status, they ultimately can achieve autonomy and possess the knowledge, skills and attitudes that result in outstanding clinical care by observing good behaviors on the part of their mentors and teachers. Faculty members must make it clear they welcome discussion of problems and mistakes so that problematic situations can be adequately addressed and corrected, said Dr. Torralba.
Clinical training in medicine—and particularly in rheumatology—can often involve ambiguity and uncertainty. Whereas the pre-clinical years of medical school are spent in the controlled learning environment of the classroom, clinical training takes place in the less controlled context of the clinic and hospital, where interpersonal interactions abound, the answers are not always clear and the learner must be willing and able to take interpersonal risk to grow.
The COVID-19 pandemic has added to the sense of uncertainty and unpredictability in medical training. Many trainees have had to learn how to evaluate and care for patients via telemedicine, a means of clinical care in which most residents and fellows have received little or no formal training. Indeed, even the faculty members overseeing the use of telemedicine may not have significant experience with this method of care.
The pandemic has also reduced participation in patient safety investigations and made it more challenging to identify systematic problems affecting patient care.
Finally, many trainees and faculty members have reported increased stress, increased challenges regarding workload and a decreased sense of professional development throughout the past two years.
Psychological safety is the perception that there are no negative consequences to oneself, status or career when taking interpersonal risks, such as reporting mistakes or problems.
Fostering Psychological Safety
With these obstacles in place, how can a program foster a sense of psychological safety and allow trainees and faculty members alike to express concerns? To create a workplace group culture that supports psychological safety, Dr. Torralba discussed the CENTRE acronym:
- C stands for confidentiality, meaning individuals speak only about their own experiences, share only what the group agrees can be discussed and can trust that these conversations are private and not subject to gossip;
- E stands for equal airtime, meaning each member of the workforce group is given equal opportunity to participate in discussions and allowing participants to take turns providing productive feedback;
- N stands for nonjudgmental—or respectful—listening, which entails trusting that what someone says is a genuine experience;
- T stands for timeliness, which refers to enabling the discussion of issues close to when they first arise and ensuring group discussions start and end on time;
- R stands for to right to pass, meaning a participant in a group discussion should be allowed to skip their turn in the conversation if more time is needed for reflection; and
- E stands for engaged, meaning everyone is encouraged to be an active participant in the discussion and to take it seriously.
Dr. Torralba’s talk was outstanding and indicated why it’s so important to support psychological safety in rheumatology training programs. Although it may be human to err, it’s certainly not always second nature to be able to construct a safe space for reporting errors, and the need for progress in this area remains clearer than ever.