Creating Strong Bonds

CME modules provide communications guidance for physicians with young patients

AOA and Erikson Institute partner on early childhood development learning modules designed to help physicians hone their empathy and communication skills.


Your next patient is a 6-month-old who is scheduled to receive several immunizations. However, you walk into the examination room and notice some hesitancy in mom. She clearly doesn’t want her baby to be vaccinated. How do you handle the situation?

Scenarios like this play out in practices all across the country, and the AOA’s new early childhood development online learning module, a collaboration with the Erikson Institute, will help physicians become more proficient in understanding and addressing parents’ concerns, resulting in stronger relationships.

The first of three modules launched earlier this month focuses on “Enhancing Communication Using Facilitating Attuned Interactions (the FAN).” It provides information that will help health care professionals read parents’ communications cues and better recognize opportunities for offering emotional support or asking questions for a more clear picture of parents’ concerns about their child’s health.

The first module has been approved for 2 AOA Category 1-B CME credits for physicians, and additional CME credit is expected to be available for the second and third modules. Medical students completing all three modules will be eligible for a professional development certificate.

Building a solid physician-parent relationship

During a child’s early years, parents will typically meet with their physician often for checkups. For this reason, physicians are an integral part of a parent’s support system and must see this time as crucial to developing a strong relationship with their patients and families. At the heart of this relationship is empathetic attuned communication, which can help parents feel understood and willing to engage with the physician about their child’s health, Alissa Craft, DO, stresses in this first module.

“There’s nothing more osteopathic than the way we communicate with patients and families. The ‘capacity building’ section of the module captures the DO philosophy of partnering with patients and their families,” says Dr. Craft, the AOA’s vice president of accreditation.

While these modules target pediatricians, family physicians and obstetricians-gynecologists due to the demographics of their patient base, Scott Cyrus, DO, a pediatrician on the curriculum workgroup developing the modules, says other specialties will also find great value in the content.

“Anyone interested in early childhood development would benefit from these modules. The information is evidence-based and practical, so any physician can incorporate the tips into their practices,” he says.

Dr. Craft agrees.

“Because this first module focuses on communication and empathy, it can be useful to anybody and everybody: practicing DOs, residents, interns and students,” she says. “I’m even seeing interest from premed students looking to apply to osteopathic medical schools.”

What’s next for the program?

Two more modules are in the works with anticipated release dates for early and late summer.

“The second module will highlight social-emotional development, which focuses on a better understanding of different milestones and how their achievement or lack thereof impacts a child,” explains Kenya McRae, the AOA’s vice president of research and development. “The third module will focus on risk factors and protective resources, looking at the impact of areas like mental health, toxic stress and available resources.”

The first three years of life are a critical time for a child’s development. The experiences they encounter during these years affect their future health, learning and social behaviors.

“This project provides an opportunity to reconnect with the important principles—communication and empathy—that are key to caring for our youngest patients and their families,” Dr. Craft says.

Leave a comment Please see our comment policy