MBBS syllabus: Soon, doctors will learn how to be better communicators

India’s medical education curriculum is getting a makeover after 21 years with the MCI, the country’s medical education regulator, revising the syllabus for the bachelor’s degree programme in medicine

Image source: Google Image for representational purposes only
Image source: Google
Image for representational purposes only

The newly appointed board of governors of the Medical Council of India has approved the new MBBS curriculum recently. Accordingly, undergraduate medical students will study a course on ethics and communication from the academic year of 2019-20 academic year.

The new MBBS syllabus, which focuses on skill-based and hands-on training, will be published next month and come into effect from the 2019-20 academic session.

While the doctor-patient relationship is at an all-time low in the country, the students will now be taught on how to talk with patients and what are the best medical practices. It is essential for doctors to enhance their communication skills so that instance of doctor-patient violence can be avoided. As there have been a spate of assaults on doctors, which has been increasing over the past few years.

Dean of B J Medical College, Pune, Dr Ajay Chandanwale, said, “It is a welcome move by the government. Students become good doctors, but there is always a need to make them good communicators. There are many ethical aspects which every doctor come across while practicing and there are many grey areas. A specific syllabus and dedicated training will certainly make future doctors ethically sound and good communicators.”

The change in syllabus has come after 21 years. For the first time, India’s MBBS curriculum acknowledges the importance of ethics, responsiveness to needs of patients and families and fine communication skills to engage the ailing.

Dr Jayant Navrange, immediate past President of Indian Medical Association (IMA), Pune, said, “We had recently conducted a certificate course at IMA, Pune office for all the doctors on medico legal issues, ethics etc. The doctors might be an excellent surgeon but he or she might not have knowledge on how to take consent or how to communicate with patient families.”

Dr Navrange added, “While in practice, we doctors frequently come across questions where there is no clear answer. Basic things like taking consent, informing patients families about vital information or counselling patients families for organ donation; requires special efforts and thoughts by doctor. In today’s day and age, when patients are well-informed about the advancement of technology, it is important to make future doctors capable to face all their patients’ questions with good communication skill.”

According to Medical Council of India, (MCI), the students will study on these topics for all their four years of academics.

“It is a good move. While we all did not get any such kind of training, we thought that this would have become an added advantage for the next generation of doctors. If we would have been a similar chance it would have been added advantag for us,” said Mrunmai Mangale, last year MBBS student of B J Medical College, Pune.

Mangale added, “These all are sensitive topics and a lot depends on how we implement it. It should not just remain a theory based paper, but we should be given practical examples of it.”

Elective subjects have also been introduced in the new MBBS curriculum. Students can select subjects of choice and dedicated time has been allotted for self-directed learning and co-curricular activities.

The undergraduate medical syllabus was last revised in 1997. It was heavy on theory, especially in anatomy, pathology and physiology. Students acquired clinical experience at hospitals from the third year. The new curriculum will have students observing treatment at hospitals from their first year.