Improving Healthcare Communication with Simulated Patients

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The Clinical Skills Development Service (CSDS) at the Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital (RBWH) is working in collaboration with University of Queensland (UQ) PhD candidate, Catherine Holland, to develop an intervention aimed at improving medical students’ communication during difficult doctor-patient conversations. With a particular focus on training sexual history taking skills, the intervention utilises simulated patients (SPs) to provide effective education.

The intervention begins with exemplars and deconstructions of how to take a good sexual history. Here, SPs will demonstrate how patients may react to different doctor mannerisms and communication styles, illustrating the importance of effective communication.

Later, students are asked to develop different SP character profiles varying in age, gender, personality, and background. This use of SP methodology highlights the existence of different patient perspectives, encouraging students to understand how different thoughts, attitudes, emotions and experiences shape each patient’s behaviour and responses. These profiles are subsequently used in a role-playing activity, allowing students to take turns in acting as the patient and the clinician.

This intervention is still in development, with a validation study also to be conducted as part of the PhD project. Any questions or comments can be directed to Catherine Holland at: