Teaching communication skills to medical students

Monash’s Rural Health Bendigo has integrated a clinical communication skills programme into Year 3B of the MBBS. Using a teaching method developed at the University of Cambridge, students in their first clinical year are able to practice clinical interviewing with a focus on information gathering using explicit communication skills. A simulated patient is central to the teaching programme, responding to student interviewing styles accordingly and offering feedback in-role.

In 2015, research focused on communication during ‘breaking bad news (BBN)’. We compared two groups of students. One group participated in the intervention – a four-hour communications workshop in classes of eight during which students had the opportunity to rehearse BBN with a simulated patient. Volunteer students from both groups were then videotaped during a practice OSCE in which they had to break bad news about breast cancer metastases to a simulated patient. The videography was marked by GP assessors against performance criteria based on the Calgary-Cambridge medical interview guide. Results indicated that those who used the explicit communication strategies taught in the intervention group performed better. The project’s small sample size was a limit in generalisability but showed that we now have a way of measuring performance (rather than only confidence) in medical communication.

For more details about this research contact:

Pam Harvey
Monash Rural Health Bendigo