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I Blog, Therefore I am

Author: Kyle Bradford Jones

Residents in family medicine at University of Utah Health hone their communications skills in a health blog.

Clear communication is critical in any field, but in medicine it can be vital. Doctors need to communicate with practitioners across a wide spectrum of specialties as well as to discuss the complexities of test results with nervous, scared patients. A small team of doctors at the University of Utah Health Family Medicine Residency Program developed a blog to sharpen the communication skills of their residents. The results of this endeavor were published in the August issue of International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine.

In 2012, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) introduced the Milestones program, which requires core competencies, such as communication, for new doctors. Kyle Bradford Jones, MD, associate professor in Family & Preventive Medicine at U of U Health, saw this requirement as a pivotal moment in medical education. He envisioned a blog as a tool to hone the communications skills of faculty and residents alike.

“I see this blog as an opportunity,” Jones said. “It provides everyone an opportunity to develop communication skills, a venue for educational instruction, and a platform to engage and advocate for our community.”

At first, leadership, faculty, and residents were skeptical, but Jones persisted and launched the Family Medicine Vital Signs. Contributors write about topics of personal interest that range from health and fitness, empathy as medicine, and the opioid crisis.

“The content is organic,” Jones said. “We let contributors write about what they find interesting.”

As necessary, the editorial board helps participants identify blog topics, provides editorial guidance, and leverages other U of U Health Family Medicine social media platforms to promote their work.

“After getting through the first submission, our bloggers typically acknowledge that the experience was more fun and more rewarding than they thought it would be,” Jones said.

With the help of residents, faculty, and guest bloggers, Jones and the editorial board post one blog entry every week more than 170 articles during the past four years. Residents contributed 40 percent of the blogs, faculty provided 38 percent, and guest bloggers wrote 22 percent.

Since the inception of the blog, Jones has noticed blog participants communicate with different audiences with greater ease. Several of the blogs have been repurposed in national outlets, including, the Utah Medical Association magazine, and U of U Health’s Algorithms blog.

According to Jones, the Family Medicine Residency Program will continue the blog requirement. They are conducting additional outreach to ensure the blog meets the needs of their readers and participants.

Jones was joined on this project by Katherine Fortenberry, Osman Sanyer, Rachel Knighton, and Sonja Van Hala at U of U Health.

If you are interested in contributing to the Family Medicine Vital Signs blog, please contact Kristen Steiner.