Patients as Feedback Providers: Exploring Medical Students’ Credibility Judgments

C. D. N. Maljaars
J. Frenkel
M. C. L. Eijkelboom
M. F. van der Schaaf
R. A. M. de Kleijn
W. J. M. van Diemen
Soort article
Original Research
Verscheen in

Introduction: Patient feedback is becoming ever more important in medical education. Whether students engage with feedback is partly determined by how credible they think the feedback provider is. Despite its importance for feedback engagement, little is known about how medical students judge the credibility of patients. The purpose of this study was therefore to explore how medical students make credibility judgments regarding patients as feedback providers.

Methods: This qualitative study builds upon McCroskey’s conceptualization of credibility as a three-dimensional construct comprising: competence, trustworthiness, and goodwill. Since credibility judgments are shaped by the context, we studied students’ credibility judgments in both a clinical and non-clinical context. Medical students were interviewed after receiving feedback from patients. Interviews were analyzed through template and causal network analysis.

Results: Students based their credibility judgments of patients on multiple interacting arguments comprising all three dimensions of credibility. In estimating a patient’s credibility, students reasoned about aspects of the patient’s competence, trustworthiness, and goodwill. In both contexts students perceived elements of an educational alliance between themselves and patients, which could increase credibility. Yet, in the clinical context students reasoned that therapeutic goals of the relationship with patients might impede educational goals of the feedback interaction, which lowered credibility.

Discussion: Students’ credibility judgments of patients were a weighing of multiple sometimes conflicting factors, within the context of relationships and their associated goals. Future research should explore how goals and roles can be discussed between students and patients to set the stage for open feedback conversations.


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