The subject area of Medical Psychology and Medical Sociology constitutes a mandatory component of the German curriculum for preclinical training during the first two years of medical school. At the Medical Faculty of the RUB, our teaching concept consists of interactive lectures, seminars and practical courses that are embedded within the modular integrated studies program (integrierter Reformstudiengang Medizin, iRM) that emphasizes problem-based learning, early transfer to clinical application, and a consistent interconnection across different subject areas within topical modules that focus on specific organ systems. We offer different courses to convey theoretical and practical knowledge with a broad spectrum of interdisciplinary topics at the interface of psychology, sociology and medicine. We convey to our students that knowledge in Medical Psychology and Medical Sociology is relevant to health and disease, and contributes to both prevention and treatment of many clinical conditions. Within a biopsychosocial model, the individual patient within the context of society and the healthcare system interacts with healthcare professionals, shaping not only health-related perceptions and behaviours but ultimately health outcomes. Knowledge about psychosocial factors and skills are therefore essential for medical students in their preparation for a successful career in medicine.
In the 1st semester of medical studies, our weekly lecture series for medical students introduces the broad role of psychosocial factors in many areas of medicine. Topics of interdisciplinary and scientifically-oriented lectures range from the role of stress in health and disease, over effects of learned fear on the generation and maintenance of chronic pain, to basic knowledge about neuropsychology and brain mechanisms involved in learning and memory processes. Our speakers from within the department and invited guest speakers with expertise in specific topics are dedicated to providing students not only with basic knowledge but also with insights into clinical application. We strive to support critical thinking and to integrate scientific approaches in order to convey how knowledge is generated, refined, and tested as a basis for evidence-based medicine as well as for personalized treatment approaches. Lectures are open to guest listeners!
Our interactive teaching course offered in the 3rd semester of medical studies is practise-oriented, and aims at improving transferable skills relevant to doctor-patient communication. Communication not only between doctors and patients but also amongst different groups of healthcare professionals (interprofessional communication) is increasingly acknowledged to play a fundamental role in medicine. Within this course, students learn in small groups not only basic theoretical knowledge relevant to understanding challenges to effective communication and a positive doctor-patient relationship, they have the opportunity to practice specific techniques and critically-reflect individual experiences as part of a problem-based learning concept. Specific topics and skill training range from delivering difficult diagnoses over empathy and dealing with conflict and emotion to improving compliance and adherence and dealing with cognitively impaired patients.
For students of the 4th semester, we offer a seminar that matches the cross-sectional focus areas “the senses” and “higher brain functions”, which are taught across all preclinical subjects of medical school. Herein, we teach psychosocial concepts and strengthen knowledge in different areas of Medical Psychology and Medical Sociology, in concert with introducing methodological skills relevant to basic and clinical scientific work. With a blended learning approach, we strive to prepare our students for the centrally-administered exams that mark the transition from preclinical to clinical part of the German medical school system.