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March 10, 2010

Bill West to present technical writing study in Tel Aviv

Bill west will be presenting the preliminary findings of a study "Using Technical Writing to Teach Empathy to Health Care Students" at the Academic Writing and Beyond in Multicultural Societies conference (IFAW/MOFET) happening July 28-29, 2010 in Tel Aviv.


Using Technical Writing to Teach Empathy to Health Care Students. William West, PhD (Writing Studies), Kathleen Newell, RDH, PhD; Christine Blue, RDH, MS (School of Dentistry), Helene Horwitz, PhD (Medical School) University of Minnesota.

Preliminary findings of a five year study conducted in medical/dental schools to assess the relationship between writing for an audience and measured clinical skills (empathy). A technical writing class was offered to second year medical students (n=166).The same students were evaluated (by medical school instructors) in simulations designed to place future clinicians in challenging patient/practitioner encounters. Actors and evaluators were calibrated to three scenarios that were filmed for later review and quantitative scoring. The students wrote descriptions of these encounters and the writing was evaluated for audience sensitivity using a scale developed for the study that had a reliability coefficient of 0.88 and concurrent validity. Scores from student writing were compared (ANOVA) to scoring on simulations. Two significant (p<0.05) correlations were found: cross-cultural experience and sensitive questioning . The exact nature of the relationship between measured writing and observed clinical skills was difficult to postulate since both writing and clinical data were collected at the same time. A second (four year) study was initiated to determine if improvement in audience directed writing skills results in improved clinical skills thus validating Bandura's Social Cognitive Theory. Dental Hygiene students (n=32) were followed for four years. Three years of simulated patient/practitioner encounter scores were gathered. The students took an audience directed technical writing course and then completed the fourth year simulated encounter. Writing samples from early and late in the course were analyzed for audience sensitivity using the scale developed for the earlier study. The later assignment scores were compared to clinical simulation scores. No correlations were found in first three years of data. Two significant correlations were found in fourth year data. High audience sensitivity correlated with rapport with patient (p=0.3804) and negotiation of self care with patient (p=0.3843). Data suggest ability to change audience sensitivity in writing can translate into clinical empathy.