In our recent courses for the American Cancer Society, we used cognitive maps as learning tools for communication. We're giving them away here, because we hope you'll use them. A good cognitive map, or talking map, can point the way through a tough conversation, and keep the clinician on track.
Pointing a way through the evidence.
The talking maps we used are new--we've been tweaking them for some time--and they incorporate some new features. They represent a synthesis of evidence-based practice, and they're short--just 5 letters each. For each task (discussing prognosis, and discussing goals of care), the 5 letters form a word that represents a critical meta-theme about that communication task. We're posting the talking maps in a one-page user-friendly form:
There's more: here are pdfs adapted from the brief presentations we did in our ACS courses--these are intentionally short, because our goal here is to get to a modeling demo, and then to deliberate practice. (As you know, lectures don't work!)
We make these available with a Creative Commons license--use them freely, with attribution, edit as you need, in noncommercial settings--because we see this work as social entrepreneurship. We'd love to hear your feedback.
What talking maps don't do.
Talking maps form an important scaffold, but not the only one you will need. A talking map is akin to a a road map that gives you the freeway exits and road names; it won't show you the flowers at the side of the road. And with medical conversations, ignoring the small details to push forward can give patients & families the sense that you only want to talk about what's on your agenda. The great medical communicators balance guiding with responsiveness (you can read the study here)--it's a back-and-forth balancing act that blends medical information with empathy. We'll have more about this here and on our brand-new website--but while you're waiting, check out Bryan Vartabedian's terrific blog post on communication as the primary skill set of the doctor in the era of social media.