JDD Corner

JDD Buzz Series | Sensitive Skin: A Survey of Dermatology Resident Physicians’ Perspectives and Educational Exposures

Dermatology residents want training in caring for sensitive skin, yet they aren’t receiving it, according to a study published in the February issue of the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. The authors assert that this points to a gap in residency education as well as a lack of consensus about sensitive skin within dermatology.

To find out more about residency education on sensitive skin, I interviewed lead author Erika McCormick, a fourth year medical student and researcher with the GW School of Medicine & Health Sciences Department of Dermatology.

What led you to want to address residents’ exposure and perspective on sensitive skin?

Sensitive skin is a common patient complaint presenting to the dermatology office. However, there is an incomplete understanding of this subjective cutaneous syndrome. Prior to our project, there had been no studies assessing the inclusion of sensitive skin in dermatology residency curricula. We wanted to conduct a survey of dermatology resident physicians to assess their exposure to education about sensitive skin, perspectives on this condition and management approaches.

How did you conduct the study and what were your key findings?

A 26-question, IRB-approved survey was disseminated to dermatology resident physicians registered to the ODAC conference and Dermatology In-Review e-mail list.

We received 214 responses, encompassing residents at all levels of training from residency program locations varied among all regions of the United States. Ninety-nine percent of residents believe sensitive skin should be included in some capacity in their residency training, yet only 48% of residents reported receiving specific education about sensitive skin. Further, less than one-fourth of residents felt very knowledgeable on how to diagnose sensitive skin, what the clinical evaluation entails and/or management, and residents who did not receive specific sensitive skin education were more likely to report feeling “not at all knowledgeable” about all three topics. Dermatology residents identified challenges with all aspects of sensitive skin patient care and cited a variety of approaches to managing sensitive skin patients.

Did the results affirm your hypothesis or surprise you?

We suspected that residents would be interested in learning about sensitive skin given how common this condition is, and we were not surprised that 99% of residents agreed that they desired sensitive skin education.

Why do you think there’s such a disconnect between residents’ desire for education on sensitive skin and whether they actually received training?

Despite sensitive skin being a common patient complaint, there is a general lack of consensus within the field of dermatology about how best to define, diagnose and manage sensitive skin. Therefore, a crucial intermediate step in improving sensitive skin education during dermatology residency will be to improve available evidence and bolster research on this topic. 

What are some takeaways from this study? What should dermatology residency programs do differently?

These data provide insight into residents’ educational priorities regarding sensitive skin and highlight a gap in residency education, as indicated by limited consensus over diagnostic and management approaches to sensitive skin. Dermatology residency programs can consider incorporating information about sensitive skin into their curricula. We surveyed residents about their preferred educational formats and topics, and in general, they desire didactic lectures about topics, such as reviewing diagnostic approaches, counseling, available scientific research and product recommendations for sensitive skin.

Do you plan to conduct any additional studies based on these results?

We are continuing to conduct research on sensitive skin in different patient populations to contribute to an improved understanding of this condition.

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