Understanding health advocacy in family medicine and psychiatry curricula and practice: A qualitative study
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BACKGROUND: We explored understanding and experiences of health advocacy among psychiatry and family medicine residents and faculty and the implications for clinical care and teaching through the lens of relationship-centred care. METHODS: This qualitative study was conducted in the psychiatry and family medicine departments at a large urban university. We interviewed 19 faculty members and conducted two focus groups with 18 residents. Semi-structured questions explored the relational meaning of health advocacy, how residents and faculty learned about the role and ethical considerations involved in incorporating advocacy work into clinical practice within a relationship-centred care framework. RESULTS: Four themes emerged from the interviews and focus groups: 1) health advocacy as an extension of the relationship to self; 2) health advocacy and professional boundaries in the physician-patient relationship; 3) health advocacy within a team-based approach; and 4) health advocacy and the physician-community/organization relationship. Participants described implications for practice of the challenges of health advocacy, including perceived institutional risks, professional boundaries and the appropriation of patient voice. CONCLUSIONS: Our study provides insights into the relational complexities of the health advocate role in residency curriculum and clinical practice. All participants described health advocacy as a broad spectrum of actions that are guided by relationships among patients, health care professionals and communities. Our analysis revealed that some challenges that participants identified with a health advocacy role could be addressed by anchoring the role within a specific theoretical framework. This would better enable us to create a culture of advocacy in the training and development of physicians.
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