Professionalism: Informal Consultations about Skin Diseases

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Amin Varasteh Badri
Evangelia Vetsiou
Nabiyah Bakhtawar
Rachel Browne
Simon Tso


Introduction: “Informal consultation” refers to informal self-referral to clinicians for medical advice. This questionnaire-based study explores non-dermatology doctors’ experiences with informal consultations on skin diseases.
Method: A 13-item questionnaire-based study was conducted in 2020, involving a convenience sample of doctors from a district general hospital. Doctors working in the dermatology department were excluded from the questionnaire. The numerical data derived from the questionnaire were analysed using descriptive statistics, and free text data were analysed using content analysis.
Results: The questionnaire response rate was 29/33 (88%), consisting of 27 doctors-in-training and two medical consultants. Twenty-four of 29 (83%) respondents reported that they were asked to provide dermatological advice outside of healthcare settings. The main source of self-referrals was first-degree relatives, as reported by 23/29 (79%) respondents. Twenty-five of 29 (86%) did not document the advice provided.
Conclusions: Non-dermatology doctors encounter informal consultations on skin diseases. These requests put a burden on the work–life balance of clinicians involved, and there are risks associated with mismanaging such requests. Doctors in training would benefit from support and guidance from their supervisors on how to navigate this professionalism issue safely.

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