Open Access Research

Results of a psychosomatic training program in China, Vietnam and Laos: successful cross-cultural transfer of a postgraduate training program for medical doctors

Kurt Fritzsche1*, Peter Scheib1, Nayeong Ko1, Michael Wirsching1, Andrea Kuhnert1, Jie Hick1, Gerhard Schüßler2, Wenyuan Wu3, Shen Yuan3, Nguyen Huu Cat4, Sisouk Vongphrachanh5, Ngo Tich Linh6, Ngyuen Kim Viet7 and and the ASIA-LINK Workgroup

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University Medical Center, Freiburg, Germany

2 Department of Medical Psychology and Psychotherapy, University Hospital, Innsbruck, Austria

3 Tongji Hospital of Tongji University, Shanghai, China

4 University Medical College, Hue, Vietnam

5 Mental Health Department, National University of Laos, Vientianne, Laos

6 University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

7 Medical University, Hanoi, Vietnam

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BioPsychoSocial Medicine 2012, 6:17  doi:10.1186/1751-0759-6-17

Published: 29 August 2012

Abstract

Background

With the “ASIA-LINK” program, the European Community has supported the development and implementation of a curriculum of postgraduate psychosomatic training for medical doctors in China, Vietnam and Laos. Currently, these three countries are undergoing great social, economic and cultural changes. The associated psychosocial stress has led to increases in psychological and psychosomatic problems, as well as disorders for which no adequate medical or psychological care is available, even in cities. Health care in these three countries is characterized by the coexistence of Western medicine and traditional medicine. Psychological and psychosomatic disorders and problems are insufficiently recognized and treated, and there is a need for biopsychosocially orientated medical care. Little is known about the transferability of Western-oriented psychosomatic training programs in the Southeast Asian cultural context.

Methods

The curriculum was developed and implemented in three steps: 1) an experimental phase to build a future teacher group; 2) a joint training program for future teachers and German teachers; and 3) training by Asian trainers that was supervised by German teachers. The didactic elements included live patient interviews, lectures, communication skills training and Balint groups. The training was evaluated using questionnaires for the participants and interviews of the German teachers and the future teachers.

Results

Regional training centers were formed in China (Shanghai), Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City and Hue) and Laos (Vientiane). A total of 200 physicians completed the training, and 30 physicians acquired the status of future teacher. The acceptance of the training was high, and feelings of competence increased during the courses. The interactive training methods were greatly appreciated, with the skills training and self-experience ranked as the most important topics. Adaptations to the cultural background of the participants were necessary for the topics of “breaking bad news,” the handling of negative emotions, discontinuities in participation, the hierarchical doctor-patient relationship, culture-specific syndromes and language barriers. In addition to practical skills for daily clinical practice, the participants wanted to learn more about didactic teaching methods. Half a year after the completion of the training program, the participants stated that the program had a great impact on their daily medical practice.

Conclusions

The training in psychosomatic medicine for postgraduate medical doctors resulted in a positive response and is an important step in addressing the barriers in providing psychosomatic primary care. The transferability of western concepts should be tested locally, and adaptations should be undertaken where necessary. The revised curriculum forms the basis of training in psychosomatic medicine and psychotherapy for medical students and postgraduate doctors in China, Vietnam and Laos.

Keywords:
Psychosomatic medicine; Curriculum; Teaching of teachers; China; Vietnam; Laos