Jazz cats use the term ‘woodshedding’ to denote a period of intense practice during which they aim to take their playing up a few notches. Developing expertise, whether we are speaking musically or talking about communicating with patients, requires a lifelong commitment to such practice. For physicians, the woodshed is not a practice room or an isolated space. No: clinical environments are the woodsheds; they are the only places in which one can hone communication skills. The idea of ‘shedding’ in the setting of routine practice challenges prevailing notions about communication skills training and has implications for how such skills should be learned, nurtured and assessed. In this essay, we use stories of woodshedding from jazz music history to discuss concepts related to deliberative practice, formal education and learning communities.
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