Why pursue personal awareness?
Personal awareness (PA) is central to effective teaching and clinical practice. Self‐reflection is the basis of both personal growth and practice improvement. Clinicians solve problems by applying learning from previous experiences to current clinical dilemmas “automatically,” without conscious direction of thought. We know little about whether the same process occurs when we face relational, psychosocial or affective dilemmas. Feelings evoked by work with patients and students are among the most intimate and exhilarating or difficult that people face. We are all aware of barriers to self‐reflection, such as time pressures, predominance of the biomedical model, physicians’ and educators need for compartmentalization for survival, and burnout. It is becoming increasingly clear that if we leave feelings unexamined, they can become additional barriers to effective patient care or to competent teaching. One cornerstone of professionalism is to integrate our affective experiences in order to foster personal learning with subsequent benefits to our patients and students. Few chances for this kind of exploration and integration exist in traditional medical education.
Personal awareness groups are opportunities for conversation about meaningful events (either from work at home with patients and students or from events within the course), and the effect of the feelings these events evoke on the work of health care provision, teaching, job satisfaction, and learning within the course. All AACH personal awareness groups use as their essential model the teachings of Carl Rogers (widely recognized as the founder of the person‐centered approach, the basis of many applications in education, group/organizational work, and counseling) and follow three group principles to create trust and safety that support personal discussion: the conversation of the group remains confidential ‐ what is said in the group should remain within the group each participant decides how much or how little to say, and says as much or as little as s/he wishes each participant speaks for him/herself, not for others
How is personal awareness work integrated into Winter Course?
Because our skills are indelibly linked to what we bring to interpersonal interactions as unique individuals, personal awareness/development work is a unique learning opportunity offered at this course. A significant portion of the course (eight sessions totaling 13 hours) is dedicated to PA group time, in which attendees are placed in small groups led by trained facilitators. Attendees remain in the same PA group for the entire course, so relationships are formed the absence of any group member can negatively affect the cohesion of the group. Skipping sessions or leaving early has proven to dramatically take away from an individual's experience at the course, and also the experience of their group members. For this reason, all attendees are strongly encouraged to attend and full participate in ALL sessions for the entire course.
The goal of these PA groups is to provide a learner-centered venue where each participant will clarify her/his own learning goals in interpersonal and communication skills, personal awareness, and reflection. Trained facilitators and fellow group participants will collaborate to fashion exercises that will help accomplish those goals. These goals may involve enhancing one’s relationships with patients, colleagues, or other team members; processing through challenges in interpersonal relationships and formulating approaches for further management; or, for intact teams that may come to the course, understanding and improving the team‐building process and team function. These groups have low learner to faculty ratios and present a unique opportunity to address challenging communication scenarios, to practice skills learned in course workshops, and to receive feedback from faculty and peers. In the learning groups, learner safety is key to support learning.
We offer several options for personal awareness learning, so that you may choose one that meets your learning needs and style.