Social competence firmly anchored in the medical curriculum

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Bild: APA/Haus der Barmherzigkeit/Hörmandinger
Bild: APA/Haus der Barmherzigkeit/Hörmandinger

At the end of the semester at the end of January, around 760 first-year students complete the compulsory "Social Competence" course at MedUni Vienna for the 15th time. The aim of this course is to sensitize future doctors to the need to treat patients with empathy at an early stage. As a teaching hospital, the Haus der Barmherzigkeit helps students to gain their first experience of direct contact with people with chronic illnesses and disabilities. Over the past 15 years, a total of 11,000 medical students have completed the compulsory "Social Competence" course at the end of the current semester.

Social skills as key competencies of modern doctors

The fact that the course has been offered regularly since 2009 underlines the importance of emphatic and respectful interaction in medicine. "The social competence course has firmly established itself as an indispensable part of medical training. Our students are introduced to their role from the very first semester, in which they are part of a team around the patient and in which social interaction is a central element," emphasizes Vice-Rector for Teaching, Anita Rieder. In the course, students learn how to build a relationship of trust with patients, verbal and non-verbal communication skills and how to support chronically ill people and those in need of care. In addition, the prospective doctors are made aware of gender-specific, social and cultural factors of health and illness and prepared for interdisciplinary teamwork.

Training in a real-life environment at Haus der Barmherzigkeit

The "Social Competence" course is characterized by the fact that students can gain experience and deepen their skills in a real-life environment. A central element of this is the internship lasting several weeks, which students complete on the wards of the Haus der Barmherzigkeit or in shared apartments run by HABIT - Haus der Barmherzigkeit Integrationsteam. "From our experience in long-term care, we know that emphatic interaction with our residents has a significant impact on their health and quality of life. We therefore welcome the fact that social skills are given such high priority in the training of future doctors," says Christoph Gisinger, Institute Director of Haus der Barmherzigkeit. During the internship, the students do not take on any nursing or medical activities, but primarily tasks as part of the visiting service. An interdisciplinary team is on hand to support students with any questions they may have.

The course is compulsory for all students of human medicine at MedUni Vienna in the first semester and takes place once a year in the winter semester.