Tamil Nadu: The BMC Medical Education Survey of 207 medical students in a medical college of Chennai has concluded that students who come from government school backgrounds have greater emotional intelligence than those from private schools. The survey also reveals that private school students who enter the medical profession due to their lower emotional intelligence find it difficult to relate to their patients in comparison to their government school counterparts.
The survey claims that there is something amiss in the state of medical education and care in the country, which it states is a result of a deep deficiency of emotional intelligence (EI) among medical students. The survey has been conducted by researchers Subhashini Sundararajan and Dr. Vijayaprasad Gopichandran from Chennai’s ESIC Medical College & PGIMSR.
An average score of 107.58 out of a maximum score of 160 for EI was scored by participating students, with government school students scoring better.
The study observed that age, gender, urban/rural nativity did not have as significant an impact on the scores, as school backgrounds did.
The survey revealed that “collectivist social setting” of government schools and the stress on “individualism” in private schools was responsible for the disparity in emotional intelligence.
“Government schools across the country suffer from resource deprivation and students have really struggled. Their learning ends up happening in a collective, collaborative kind of manner, “ Gopichandran said, speaking to News18.
“Kids from the best private schools have trouble adapting to a medical college, and in coping with how difficult their course is because they’re not comfortable studying collectively,” he added.
The study further stated that students from government schools vibe together more easily, sharing notes and the burden of work, and helping each other. Private school children were found managing their studies alone.
Such behavior is also an indication of how students interact with patients once they become practicing doctors. The inability to listen to a patient has damaged the trust implicit between the doctor and the patient.
Previous studies, said Gopichandran, indicate that if a patient is allowed to talk without interruptions for two minutes it makes it easier for a medical practitioner to reach a correct diagnosis and in much lesser time.
“Emotional intelligence does not take time,” he said refuting arguments that Indian doctors in government hospitals don’t have the time to make emotional investments in patients. “It is a matter of a couple of minutes, of the correct body language, the ability to listen, a simple hand on the patient’s shoulder,” he told the daily, drawing from his own practice and from that of his mentors.
Students he said these days did not have doctors who could set examples to them by their own interactions with patients.
“The rise of specialty and super specialty practices has meant that there are very fewer general physicians practicing ethical medicine. Patients aren’t seen as whole people but as organs,” said Gopichandran. “I can’t blame the students,” he added, “they’re responding to a market that only rewards those with most degrees.”
The survey also pointed out, that private school students were uncomfortable about getting too familiar with their patients for fear of losing their objectivity. They also were of the view that anger and a paternalistic attitude towards patients were necessary tools to have them abide by treatment regimes.
The survey concluded that both the doctor and the patient tend to get trapped in a vicious cycle of diminishing trust, leading to negative responses to each other. The prevailing everyday attacks by patient relatives on doctors was a result of the above stated negative emotions prevailing between the two.
However, “emotional intelligence is a cognitive process,” Gopichandran told News18 and can be taught as is being done at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences which is teaching EI to policemen.
On the basis of this survey, Gopichandran, and Sundararajan, his student are preparing a policy brief for the National Medical Council (NMC), for incorporation of emotional intelligence into medical training. EI is not to be incorporated as a separate lecture but as part of every course and for every teacher to teach.
“There has to be a focus on primary health care and on pushing students to explore medicine instead of fast-tracking their careers to corporate hospital jobs,” said Gopichandran. The Researchers stressed that such attitudes needed to change.