How are the Experiences and Needs of Families of Individuals with Mental Illness Reflected in Medical Education Guidelines?
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This descriptive study explored the extent that medical education curriculum guidelines contained content about the experiences and needs of family members of people with serious mental illness.
Key family-focused-literature themes about the experiences and needs of families of individuals with mental illness were drawn from a review of over 6,000 sources in the mental health practice literature that were identified within a systematic search and thematic development process. The study identified the extent and nature of family-focused key literature themes as reflected in medical education curriculum guidelines for psychiatry and primary care practice specialties of family practice, internal medicine and pediatrics. An iterative process was used to retrieve and analyze text data drawn from the curriculum guidelines of national accrediting organizations for undergraduate, graduate, and continuing medical education.
The key family-focused themes, as drawn from the mental health practice research literature, were: mental illness stigma; family caregiver burden; information exchange and referral; family stress, coping, and adaptation; family support; crisis response; and family psychoeducation. Two of these seven themes appeared in medical education curriculum guidelines: information exchange and caregiver burden. The most frequently appearing family-focused key literature theme was information exchange. Psychiatry and undergraduate medical education reflected the most family content.
It appears that medical education curriculum guidelines have insufficient content about families of people with mental illness. The educational experiences of psychiatrists and primary care physicians may not adequately prepare them for working with family members of their patients. It is recommended that medical education curriculum guidelines incorporate information about family stigma; family/caregiver burden; information exchange; family stress, coping, and adaptation; family support; crisis response; and multiple family group psychoeducation.
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