GU medics can opt out of bad news role-play

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Credit: Caroline C Evans Abbott

Osama Abou-zeid
Writer

Undergraduate medical students at the University of Glasgow are being allowed to opt out of role-play sessions designed to teach them how to deliver bad news to patients.

A verbal warning is given at the start of these sessions, known as “Communication Skills Breaking Bad News/Bereavement”, directing students to speak to a member of staff if they feel they will struggle, or are struggling, with the lesson.

The information comes in light of a Freedom of Information request made to the University.

Undergraduate medicine students also receive a similar warning before working with cadavers for the first time in anatomy dissection sessions.

Mita Dhullipala, Chair of the Scottish Medical Students Committee (SMSC), has defended the University’s decision, saying in a statement that: “It is an integral part of a doctor’s job to support patients through what can be the most painful times in their lives.

“Delivering bad news is something we would expect medical students to learn about and be exposed to during the course of their training.

“These skills are important and medical students will recognise that. But there may be occasions, perhaps if a student had suffered a recent bereavement themselves, that they may appreciate the opportunity to opt out of a role play scenario.”

Many other universities offer their students the same option for lessons which involve potentially distressing subject matter.

Forensic science students at Strathclyde University are warned if “blood patterns, crime scenes and bodies” will be shown in classes.

A spokesman from Universities Scotland stated that while there was no sector-wide policy on verbal warnings, the situation was being monitored.

A spokesperson for the University of Glasgow said: “As with our response to the press reporting of other ‘trigger warnings’ it is important to set out the facts, rather than to rely on some of the more sensationalist lines that certain newspaper chose to write. Students on undergraduate medical degrees are not provided with opt-outs of role play scenarios. They are informed of the content of breaking bad news/bereavement sessions, some of which can be extremely distressing. Any student who feels uncomfortable is given the opportunity to discuss their concerns with a member of staff. They may be excused from participation in the role-play, but not from attending, observing and learning from the session.”