In 1994, medical sociologist F.W. Hafferty coined the term, "the hidden curriculum," to describe those lessons which fall outside of the more formal curriculum of medical school and residency . Medical students and junior residents observe and learn from the behaviors and attitudes of more senior doctors, and the lessons imparted are frequently sobering, sometimes even cynical. A belief that underscores many of the lessons of the hidden curriculum is simply this: each doctor is born with a fixed ability to be compassionate.
In other words, as one physician-teacher once told me, "You either have it or you don't."
A study in this month's issue of Academic Medicine proves that even established physician-teachers can improve their humanistic skills and become better role models. But, according to the study's lead author, these teachers "would have to believe that such work was important."