October 10, 2012

360-Degree Feedback

by Andrea Passarelli, Pharm.D., PGY1 Pharmacy Practice Resident, The Johns Hopkins Hospital

Preceptors play an integral role in the development of pharmacists.  Most schools of pharmacy provide formalized training and education to their preceptors in order to help them master effective precepting techniques, but literature surrounding this topic is scarce.  Preceptors should use a variety of teaching strategies throughout a rotation and these should be tailored to the learner’s stage or professional development.1  As learners grow in their ability and confidence, they should be performing more tasks independently, such as medication reconciliation, discharge counseling, and "rounding" with the medical team.  In these situations, the preceptor might use an assessment technique known as 360-degree feedback to evaluate the student’s performance.  The 360-degree feedback technique generally involves the preceptor asking other healthcare professionals as well as patients about the student’s performance.  This evaluation technique is gaining popularity in healthcare and other sectors.  I wanted to research this technique further so that I could use this assessment strategy during my career.

One paper published by Joshi et al. in Academic Medicine described the successful implementation of 360-degree feedback for obstetrics and gynecology residents at Monmouth Medical Center.2 Residents were assessed on their interpersonal and communication skills by nurses, faculty members, allied health professional staff, medical students, patients, and co-residents.  In addition, each resident completed a self-assessment.  The researchers found good correlation between evaluations within each group of evaluators as well reasonably strong agreement among evaluators regarding each resident's rank among the peer group. Interestingly, there was a negative correlation between the rankings by faculty, staff, and medical students with the rankings given by peers.  The highest-rated residents (based on faculty, staff, and student evaluations) received low marks from their co-residents and vice versa.  This may perhaps be due to some perceived competition or a desire to “get ahead” by rating high-achieving residents poorly.  On self-assessment, junior residents typically rated themselves highly while senior residents rated themselves average or low.  This may have been because senior residents were setting higher standards for themselves or have increased self-awareness later in the curriculum. A potential advantage of 360-degree feedback employed at Monmouth Medical Center: evaluators were eager participants because their feedback was anonymous. The 360-feedback technique has been widely described in medical education journals, but has been most often been used in residency training rather than student education.3-6  360-degree feedback can be an extremely effective tool for a preceptor, as learners will often communicate differently in the presence of a preceptor and when independently communicating with peers, staff (who may be perceived to be at different social ranks within the organization), and patients.

When I was a student I had one experience with 360-degree feedback during my first acute care rotation.  On the last day of the rotation, my preceptor allowed me to round independently with the team.  After the team finished rounding, my preceptor asked the medical interns, attending physicians, and nurse case-manager about my performance.  In subsequent advanced practice experiences, both as a student and resident, preceptors have occasionally sought feedback from physicians regarding my performance.  But most based my evaluation solely on their direct observations.

While my experience with the 360-degree technique from the perspective of a learner is limited, I believe there are some important points that should be considered prior to implementation.  First, it is important to inform the learner that this technique will be used.  Although the goal is to assess the learner’s performance without influence from the preceptor, learners might be taken aback if their performance is discussed with other individuals without their knowledge.  Further, it is important for preceptors to remember that in order to effectively implement this technique they must ask a breadth of individuals (with different roles) to participate in the process.  This was done during my first rotation, but not in subsequent rotations as preceptors only asked physicians for their input.  I have never had a preceptor ask one of my patients about their perception of my abilities.  And with the notable exception of my first rotation, my preceptors haven’t asked medical interns, medical students, or nurses for feedback.

360-degree feedback appears to be an incredibly valuable assessment tool that can enhance the quality of evaluations provided to both pharmacy students and residents.  This technique allows preceptors to more accurately assess a learner’s communication skills, especially in the absence of preceptor supervision.  Research has shown that this is an effective and accurate evaluation technique when used in medical residency training, but its use has not (yet) been described in the pharmacy education literature.  Preceptors utilizing this technique should be familiar with its fundamentals, and should ask individuals in multiple roles, including patients, for feedback regarding the learner’s performance.  When used appropriately, 360-degree feedback allows the preceptor a unique opportunity to obtain a complete picture of the learner’s strengths and can help them identify areas for improvement.

1.    McDonough RP, Bennett MS. Improving communication skills of pharmacy students through effective precepting. Am J Pharm Educ. 2006 ;70(3): Article 58.
5.    Sorg JC, Wilson RD, Perzynski AT et al. Simplifying the 360-degree peer evaluation in a physical medicine andrehabilitation residency program. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2012; 91(9):797-803.

No comments: