Med Students Interview Veterans to Improve Patient Care Skills
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DO Students Practice Listening Skills with Veterans

September 30, 2020

Philadelphia veteran uses a cell phone to talk to a PCOM medical student in a patient history interview assignment.First-year medical students partnered with the Philadelphia VA Medical Center to interview veterans and test critical listening skills.

As a doctor, one of the most important skills to possess is the ability to listen. Recently, a group of first-year Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) students at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) took part in “Veteran’s Affair: My Life, My Story”, a community experience in the Medical Humanities Course designed to challenge students’ critical listening skills.

PCOM partnered with the Philadelphia VA Medical Center to connect students with a veteran interviewee. Students were required to set up a phone interview, compiling a list of questions that they felt were most important for writing a robust patient history. Students were not given access to any of the veteran’s history, either personal or medical. Upon completion of their interview, students transcribed what they learned and transcriptions were then shared with the veteran to test the student’s accuracy.

“This community experience was a reminder that when you’re treating a patient there is a whole life history that we may not know about,” shared Erica Redmann (DO ’24), a member of the first cohort of students in this course. “I was fortunate to have a great experience, with a veteran who was very open about his life. I had a lot to write about and it made me better understand the depth of history we, as future physicians, will need to gather when caring for patients,” continued Ms. Redmann.

Upon completion of this community experience, students came together to share their experience and provide feedback for future cohorts. There are plans to continue this program with a new group of students in both December and January.

When asked what her favorite part of this community experience was, Ms. Redmann shared, “It’s exciting to know that the personal histories we’ve written [once reviewed by the veterans for accuracy] will be included as part of their patient history file. Their physicians can look to these personal histories when deciding a course of care for these patients in the future.”

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    Founded in 1899, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) has trained thousands of highly competent, caring physicians, health practitioners and behavioral scientists who practice a “whole person” approach to care—treating people, not just symptoms. PCOM operates three campuses (PCOM, PCOM Georgia and PCOM South Georgia) and offers doctoral degrees in clinical psychology, educational psychology, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy and school psychology, and graduate degrees in applied behavior analysis, applied positive psychology, biomedical sciences, forensic medicine, medical laboratory science, mental health counseling, non profit leadership and population health management, organizational development and leadership, physician assistant studies, school psychology, and public health management and administration. PCOM students learn the importance of health promotion, research, education and service to the community. Through its community-based Healthcare Centers, PCOM provides care to medically underserved populations. For more information, visit or call 215-871-6100.

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