History taking and empathetic communication are two important aspects in successful physician-patient interaction. Gathering important information from the patient’s medical history is needed for effective clinical decision making while empathy is relevant for patient satisfaction. We wanted to investigate whether medical students near graduation are able to combine both skills as required in daily medical practice.
Thirty near graduates from Hamburg Medical School participated in an assessment for clinical competences including a consultation hour with five standardized patients. Each patient interview was videotaped and standardized patients rated participants with the CARE questionnaire for consultation and relational empathy. All videotaped interviews were rated with a checklist based on the number of important medical aspects for each case. Data were analysed with the linear mixed model to correct for random effects. Regression analysis was performed to look for correlations between the number of questions asked by a participant and their respective empathy rating.
Of the 123 aspects that could have been gathered in total, students only requested 56.4% (95% CI 53.5-59.3). While no difference between male and female participants was found, a significant difference (p < .001) was observed between the two parts of the checklist with 61.1% (95% CI 57.9-64.3) of aspects asked for in part 1 (patient’s symptoms) versus 52.0 (95 47.4-56.7) in part 2 (further history). All female standardized patients combined rated female participants (mean score 14.2, 95% CI 12.3-16.3) to be significantly (p < .01) more empathetic than male participants (mean score 19.2, 95% CI 16.3-22.6). Regression analysis revealed no correlation between the number of medical aspects gathered by a participant and his or her respective empathy score given by the standardized patient in the CARE questionnaire.
Gathering sufficient medical data from a patient’s history and empathetic communication are two completely separate sides of the coin of history taking. While both skills have to be acquired during medical school training with particular focus on their respective learning objectives, medical students need to be provided with additional learning and feedback opportunities where they can be observed exercising both skills combined as required in physicians’ daily practice.
History taking; Medical history; Communication; Competence; Empathy; Feedback
Objectives. To investigate the relationship between the length of a medical consultation in a general practice setting and the biopsychosocial information obtained by the physician, and to explore the characteristics of young physicians obtaining comprehensive, especially psychosocial information. Design. A prospective, longitudinal follow-up study. Setting. Videotaped consultations with standardized patients on two occasions were scored for the amount of biopsychosocial information obtained. Consultation length was recorded in minutes. Subjects. Final-year (T-1) medical school students (n = 111) participated in the project. On completion of their internship one and a half years later (T-2), 62 attended a second time, as young physicians. Main outcome measures. Content lists. Results. Pearson's r correlations between content and length at T-1 and T-2 were 0.27 and 0.66, respectively (non-overlapping confidence intervals). Psychosocial content increased significantly when consultations exceeded 13 minutes (15 minutes scheduled). Physicians using more than 13 minutes had previously, as hospital interns, perceived more stress in the emergency room and had worked in local hospitals. Conclusions. A strong association was found between consultation length and information, especially psychosocial information, obtained by the physicians at internship completion. This finding should be considered by faculty members and organizers of the internship period. Further research is needed to detect when, during the educational process, increased emphasis on communication skills training would be most beneficial for students/residents, and how the medical curriculum and internship period should be designed to optimize young physicians’ use of time in consultations.
Consultation content; consultation length; general practice; medical students; Norway; physicians; psychosocial
Communication is a major aspect of medical practice in such areas as the consultation, counselling, team work, management duties, health education and teaching. Many communication skills essential to the clinical consultation are different from those used in everyday life. They require an understanding of the doctor/patient relationship and of the self as well as of others. They also require a subserving repertoire of specific behavioural skills. The present paper sets out to emphasize this pervasive importance of communication skills in medical practice and to suggest some educational goals and objectives for those skills of particular relevance to the consultation. It describes one attempt to pursue these within the author's own school despite the piecemeal nature of such teaching. In Britain great emphasis is placed on the importance of clinical skills and this is reflected in the priority given to them in the final professional examination, and yet their communication aspects are rarely well defined within the curriculum or directly assessed. The author advocates the teaching and assessment of communication skills as a continuous process throughout undergraduate and postgraduate medical education for clinical practice.
Objective To identify the content of a psoriasis curriculum for medical students.
Design Literature review and modified Delphi technique.
Setting Primary and secondary care in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.
Subjects 19 dermatologists (7 teaching hospital consultants; 6 consultants in district general hospitals; 6 registrars); 2 general practitioner senior house officers working in dermatology, 5 dermatology nurses, 7 rheumatologists, 25 general practitioner tutors, and 25 patients with chronic psoriasis.
Main outcome measures Percentage of agreement by participants to items derived from literature and our existing psoriasis syllabus.
Results 71 (84.5%) of 84 questionnaires were returned. A 75% level of consensus was reached on key items that focused on the common presentations of psoriasis, impact, management, and communication skills. Students should be aware of the psychosocial impact of psoriasis, examine the skin while showing sensitivity, and be able to explain psoriasis to patients in a way that enables patients to explain the condition to others.
Conclusions The panels identified the important items for a psoriasis curriculum. The views of patients were particularly helpful, and we encourage educators to involve patients with chronic diseases in developing curriculums in the future. The method and results could be generalised to curriculum development in chronic disease.
Deficient physician communication skills can lead to complaints by patients and colleagues. While there are many communication training courses for physicians, there are few descriptions of programs that address their deficiencies.
This report describes the use of a coaching model developed by the author to remediate inadequate communication skills.
The coaching model consists of a discrete set of communication skills that are gradually integrated into professional activities while debriefing that process in a supportive relationship.
Outcomes are provided for the first 13 physicians coached after the approach was standardized. On a Likert scale (range, 1–7), with 7 expressing “high satisfaction,” all participants rated the consultation in the 5–7 range (mean, 6.3), and all supervisors rated the consultation in the 6–7 range (mean, 6.7).
A coaching model is effective in improving communication skills deemed inadequate by physicians’ patients and colleagues. Future work should evaluate the impact of integrating coaching into health care organizations and on developing new tools to augment coaching.
physician communication; communication training; coaching model
Despite the emergence of clinical ethics consultation as a clinical service in recent years, little is known about how clinical ethics consultation differs from, or is the same as, other medical consultations. A critical assessment of the similarities and differences between these 2 types of consultations is important to help the medical community appreciate ethics consultation as a vital service in today's health care setting. Therefore, this Special Article presents a comparison of medical and clinical ethics consultations in terms of fundamental goals of consultation, roles of consultants, and methodologic approaches to consultation, concluding with reflections on important lessons about the physician-patient relationship and medical education that may benefit practicing internists. Our aim is to examine ethics consultation as a clinical service integral to the medical care of patients. Studies for this analysis were obtained through the PubMed database using the keywords ethics consultation, medical consultation, ethics consults, medical consults, ethics consultants, and medical consultants. All English-language articles published from 1970 through August 2011 that pertained to the structure and process of medical and ethics consultation were reviewed.
CASES, clarify the consultant request assemble the relevant information synthesize the information explain the synthesis and support the consultation process
Good communication is a crucial element of good clinical care, and it is important to provide appropriate consultation skills teaching in undergraduate medical training to ensure that doctors have the necessary skills to communicate effectively with patients and other key stakeholders. This article aims to provide research evidence of the acceptability of a longitudinal consultation skills strand in an undergraduate medical course, as assessed by a cross-sectional evaluation of students' perceptions of their teaching and learning experiences.
A structured questionnaire was used to collect student views. The questionnaire comprised two parts: 16 closed questions to evaluate content and process of teaching and 5 open-ended questions. Questionnaires were completed at the end of each consultation skills session across all year groups during the 2006-7 academic year (5 sessions in Year 1, 3 in Year 2, 3 in Year 3, 10 in Year 4 and 10 in Year 5). 2519 questionnaires were returned in total.
Students rated Tutor Facilitation most favourably, followed by Teaching, then Practice & Feedback, with suitability of the Rooms being most poorly rated. All years listed the following as important aspects they had learnt during the session:
• how to structure the consultation
• importance of patient-centredness
• aspects of professionalism (including recognising own limits, being prepared, generally acting professionally).
All years also noted that the sessions had increased their confidence, particularly through practice.
Our results suggest that a longitudinal and integrated approach to teaching consultation skills using a well structured model such as Calgary-Cambridge, facilitates and consolidates learning of desired process skills, increases student confidence, encourages integration of process and content, and reinforces appreciation of patient-centredness and professionalism.
Medical students are rarely taught how to integrate communication and clinical reasoning. Not understanding the relation between these skills may lead students to undervalue the connection between psychosocial and biomedical aspects of patient care.
To improve medical students' communication and clinical reasoning and their appreciation of how these skills interrelate in medical practice.
In 2003, we conducted a randomized trial of a curricular intervention at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. In a 6-week course, participants learned communication and clinical reasoning skills in an integrative fashion using small group exercises with role-play, reflection and feedback through a structured iterative reflective process.
Second-year medical students.
All students interviewed standardized patients who evaluated their communication skills in establishing rapport, data gathering and patient education/counseling on a 5-point scale (1=poor; 5=excellent). We assessed clinical reasoning through the number of correct problems listed and differential diagnoses generated and the Diagnostic Thinking Inventory. Students rated the importance of learning these skills in an integrated fashion.
Standardized patients rated curricular students more favorably in establishing rapport (4.1 vs 3.9; P=.05). Curricular participants listed more psychosocial history items on their problem lists (65% of curricular students listing ≥1 item vs 44% of controls; P=.008). Groups did not differ significantly in other communication or clinical reasoning measures. Ninety-five percent of participants rated the integration of these skills as important.
Intervention students performed better in certain communication and clinical reasoning skills. These students recognized the importance of biomedical and psychosocial issues in patient care. Educators may wish to teach the integration of these skills early in medical training.
communication skills; clinical reasoning; medical education (undergraduate); reflection; feedback
A number of recent developments in medical and nursing education have highlighted the importance of communication and consultation skills (CCS). Although such skills are taught in all medical and nursing undergraduate curriculums, there is no comprehensive screening or assessment programme of CCS using professionally trained Standardized Patients Educators (SPE's) in Ireland. This study was designed to test the content, process and acceptability of a screening programme in CCS with Irish medical and nursing students using trained SPE's and a previously validated global rating scale for CCS.
Eight tutors from the Schools of Nursing and Medicine at University College Cork were trained in the use of a validated communication skills and attitudes holistic assessment tool. A total of forty six medical students (Year 2 of 5) and sixty four nursing students (Year 2/3 of 4) were selected to under go individual CCS assessment by the tutors via an SPE led scenario. Immediate formative feedback was provided by the SPE's for the students. Students who did not pass the assessment were referred for remediation CCS learning.
Almost three quarters of medical students (33/46; 72%) and 81% of nursing students (56/64) passed the CCS assessment in both communication and attitudes categories. All nursing students had English as their first language. Nine of thirteen medical students referred for enhanced learning in CCS did not have English as their first language.
A significant proportion of both medical and nursing students required referral for enhanced training in CCS. Medical students requiring enhanced training were more likely not to have English as a first language.
Genetic counselling for inherited susceptibility to cancer involves communication of a significant amount of information about possible consequences of different interventions. This study explores counsellors' attitudes to computer software designed to aid this process. Eight genetic counsellors used the software with actors playing patients. Clinicians' rating of expected patient satisfaction, content, accuracy, timeliness, format, overall value, ease of use, effect on the patient–provider relationship and effect on clinician's performance were evaluated via qualitative and quantitative analysis of interviews, training tasks and questionnaires. Most counsellors found the software effective. Concerns related to possible impact on consultation dynamics and content. Participants suggested countering these through appropriate new counselling skills and selective use of the computer. The REACT software could provide effective support for genetic risk management counselling.
Interactive decision support; Risk management; Cancer; Genetic counselling; CDSS
This study sought to describe counsellor–counselee interaction during initial cancer genetic counselling consultations and to examine whether the communication reflects counselees' previsit needs. A total of 130 consecutive counselees, referred mainly for breast or colon cancer, completed a questionnaire before their first appointment at a genetic clinic. Their visit was videotaped. Counselee and counsellor verbal communications were analysed and initiative to discuss 11 genetics-specific conversational topics was assessed. The content of the visit appeared relatively standard. Overall, counselees had a stronger psychosocial focus than counsellors. Counsellors directed the communication more and initiated the discussion of most of the topics assessed. Counselees did not appear to communicate readily in a manner that reflected their previsit needs. Counsellors provided more psychosocial information to counselees in higher need for emotional support, yet did not enquire more about counselees' specific concerns. New counselees may be helped by receiving more information on the counselling procedure prior to their visit, and may be advised to prepare the visit more thoroughly so as to help them verbalise more their queries during the visit.
cancer genetics; precounselling needs; communication
Feedback on videotaped consultations is a useful way to enhance consultation skills among medical students. The method is becoming increasingly common, but is still not widely implemented in medical education. One obstacle might be that many students seem to consider this educational approach a stressful experience and are reluctant to participate. In order to improve the process and make it more acceptable to the participants, we wanted to identify possible problems experienced by students when making and receiving feedback on their video taped consultations.
Nineteen of 75 students at the University of Bergen, Norway, participating in a consultation course in their final term of medical school underwent focus group interviews immediately following a video-based feedback session. The material was audio-taped, transcribed, and analysed by phenomenological qualitative analysis.
The study uncovered that some students experienced emotional distress before the start of the course. They were apprehensive and lacking in confidence, expressing fear about exposing lack of skills and competence in front of each other. The video evaluation session and feedback process were evaluated positively however, and they found that their worries had been exaggerated. The video evaluation process also seemed to help strengthen the students' self esteem and self-confidence, and they welcomed this.
Our study provides insight regarding the vulnerability of students receiving feedback from videotaped consultations and their need for reassurance and support in the process, and demonstrates the importance of carefully considering the design and execution of such educational programs.
To aid future curriculum revision and planning, a batch of newly graduated medical students were surveyed using a questionnaire containing items representing possible areas of concern during house-officership. Students rated items representing communication issues as areas of concern. They did not agree that areas concerning responsibilities as a doctor, continuing medical education, theoretical and practical skills and potentially stressful working conditions were problem areas. Communication skills should remain among the priority areas for undergraduate training. Students should also be given more information about the house-officership period prior to graduation. Further study is needed to confirm perceived strengths of the USM curriculum suggested by the study, which are skills in finding resources for further learning and skills in leadership. A task-analysis of the house-officership period is also needed.
Medical Education; Stressors; House-officership
BACKGROUND. Review of clinical notes is used extensively as an indirect method of assessing doctors' performance. However, to be acceptable it must be valid. AIM. This study set out to examine the extent to which clinical notes in medical records of general practice consultations reflected doctors' actual performance during consultations. METHOD. Thirty nine general practitioners in the Netherlands were consulted by four simulated patients who were indistinguishable from real patients and who reported on the consultations. The complaints presented by the simulated patients were tension headache, acute diarrhoea and pain in the shoulder, and one presented for a check up for non-insulin dependent diabetes. Later, the doctors forwarded their medical records of these patients to the researchers. Content of consultations was measured against accepted standards for general practice and then compared with content of clinical notes. An index, or content score, was calculated as the measure of agreement between actions which had actually been recorded and actions which could have been recorded in the clinical notes. A high content score reflected a consultation which had been recorded well in the medical record. The correlation between number of actions across the four complaints recorded in the clinical notes and number of actions taken during the consultations was also calculated. RESULTS. The mean content score (interquartile range) for the four types of complaint was 0.32 (0.27-0.37), indicating that of all actions undertaken, only 32% had been recorded. However, mean content scores for the categories 'medication and therapy' and 'laboratory examination' were much higher than for the categories 'history' and 'guidance and advice' (0.68 and 0.64, respectively versus 0.29 and 0.22, respectively). The correlation between number of actions across the four complaints recorded in the clinical notes and number of actions taken during the consultations was 0.54 (P < 0.05). CONCLUSION. The use of clinical notes to audit doctors' performance in Dutch general practice is invalid. However, the use of clinical notes to rank doctors according to those who perform many or a few actions in a consultation may be justified.
Objectives To compare patients' enablement and satisfaction after teaching and non-teaching consultations. To explore patients' views about the possible impact that increased community based teaching of student doctors in their practice may have on the delivery of service and their attitudes towards direct involvement with students.
Design Observational study using validated survey instruments (patient enablement index—PEI, and consultation satisfaction questionnaire—CSQ) administered after teaching consultations and non-teaching consultations. Ten focus groups (two from each practice), comprising five with patients participating in prearranged teaching sessions and five with patients not participating in these.
Setting Five general practices in west Suffolk and southern Norfolk, England, that teach student doctors on the Cambridge graduate medical course.
Participants 240 patients attending teaching consultations (response rate 82%, 196 patients) and 409 patients attending non-teaching consultations (response rate 72%, 294 patients) received survey instruments. Ten focus groups with a total of 34 patients participating in prearranged teaching sessions and 20 patients not participating in these.
Main outcome measures Scores on the patient enablement index and consultation satisfaction questionnaire, analysed at the level of all patients, allowing for age, sex, general practitioner, and practice, and at the level of the individual general practitioner teacher. Qualitative analysis of focus group data.
Results Patients' enablement or satisfaction was not reduced after teaching consultations compared with non-teaching consultations (mean difference in scores on the patient enablement index and consultation satisfaction questionnaire with adjustment for confounders 2.24% and 1.70%, respectively). This held true for analysis by all patients and by general practitioner teacher. Qualitative data showed that patients generally supported the teaching of student doctors in their practice. However, this support was conditional on receiving sufficient information about reasons for doctors' absence, the characteristics of students, and the nature of teaching planned. Many patients viewed their general practice as different from hospital and expected greater control over students' presence during their consultations.
Conclusions Patients' enablement and satisfaction are not impaired by students' participation in consultations. Patients generally support the teaching of student doctors in their general practice but expect to be provided with sufficient information and to have a choice about participation, so they can give informed consent. Recognising this when organising general practice based teaching is important.
Brief admission of the new diabetic child and of a parent to an enlightened hospital for stabilisation, preliminary education, and familiarisation with hospital and community staff is well worth while. The greater the demand for constant control of the highest quality, the greater the need for a close understanding of the psychosocial factors concerned and for clinical skill. The nature of the home and the family relationships should in theory be available from the child's general practitioner at the time of the first referral since he has so much information about the whole family. With the virtual disappearance, however, of mutual consultation in the patient's home in many places, the opportunity for oral communication has declined, and availability on the telephone is not always easy. The busy general practitioner (far less an unknown physician from a deputising service without access to the records) has little time to write a comprehensive letter. In practice a relatively small hospital-based mobile team of specially experienced sisters who are keen to communicate in the home, the GP's surgery, and the school makes a major contribution to the diabetic care of a young population vulnerable to major handicap in what should be the prime of life. Their cost effectiveness may be difficult to prove but it is not at all in doubt--especially when the sisters as in this area deal in the community with a wider range of chronic illnesses and handicaps in children.
With general practice recognized as one of three major subjects in the Tromsø medical school curriculum, a matching examination counterpart was needed. The aim was to develop and implement an examination in an authentic general practice setting for final-year medical students. In a general practice surgery, observed by two examiners and one fellow student, the student performs a consultation with a consenting patient who would otherwise have consulted his/her general practitioner (GP). An oral examination follows. It deals with the consultation process, the observed communication between “doctor” and patient, and with clinical problem-solving, taking today's patient as a starting point. The session is closed by discussion of a public-health-related question. Since 2004 the model has been evaluated through questionnaires to students, examiners, and patients, and through a series of review meetings among examiners and students. Examination in general practice using unselected, consenting patients mimics real life to a high degree. It constitutes one important element in a comprehensive assessment process. This is considered to be an acceptable and appropriate way of testing the students before graduation.
Examination of medical student; family practice; general practice; real-life situation; real patient
Nursing students, as future health care providers, need comprehensive instruction about AIDS--the many manifestations of both the disease itself and the pandemic. As health educators and practitioners, nurses play a major role in safeguarding the health care setting and the community by their efforts in preventing transmission of the AIDS virus. Nurses are and will continue to be responsible for administering the major portion of the direct health care that AIDS patients require and for teaching basic nursing skills to other care givers. According to a 1987 survey of 461 nursing programs conducted by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, AIDS content is being incorporated into the curriculums of the majority of programs that responded. Students require an in-depth knowledge of AIDS to enable them to address effectively the needs of AIDS patients and their families. Because of the complex psychosocial, ethical, and legal issues, careful attention must be given to the development of students' skills in making clinical decisions that will promote effective nursing intervention when addressing problems in nursing care. Curriculums should also include assessment of the special needs of members of minority groups that are disproportionately affected by AIDS. Schools of nursing in colleges and universities can serve as key resources for developing curriculums, policies, and practice patterns that will assist the nursing community and the public in responding to the AIDS epidemic.
Reflection on professional experience is increasingly accepted as a critical attribute for health care practice; however, evidence that it has a positive impact on performance remains scarce. This study investigated whether, after allowing for the effects of knowledge and consultation skills, reflection had an independent effect on students’ ability to solve problem cases.
Data was collected from 362 undergraduate medical students at Ghent University solving video cases and reflected on the experience of doing so. For knowledge and consultation skills results on a progress test and a course teaching consultation skills were used respectively. Stepwise multiple linear regression analysis was used to test the relationship between the quality of case-solving (dependent variable) and reflection skills, knowledge, and consultation skills (dependent variables).
Only students with data on all variables available (n = 270) were included for analysis. The model was significant (Anova F(3,269) = 11.00, p < 0.001, adjusted R square 0.10) with all variables significantly contributing.
Medical students’ reflection had a small but significant effect on case-solving, which supports reflection as an attribute for performance. These findings suggest that it would be worthwhile testing the effect of reflection skills training on clinical competence.
The nature of communication between patients and their second-opinion hematology consultants may be very different in these one-time consultations than for those that are within long-term relationships. This study explored patients’ perceptions of their second-opinion hematology oncology consultation to investigate physician-patient communication in malignant disease at a critical juncture in cancer patients’ care and decision-making.
In-depth telephone interviews with a subset of 20 patients from a larger study, following their subspecialty hematology consultations.
Most patients wanted to contribute to the consultation agenda, but were unable to do so. Patients sought expert and honest advice delivered with empathy, though most did not expect the consultant to directly address their emotions. They wanted the physician to apply his/her knowledge to the specifics of their individual cases, and were disappointed and distrustful when physicians cited only general prognostic statistics. In contrast, physicians’ consideration of the unique elements of patients’ cases, and demonstrations of empathy and respect made patients’ feel positively about the encounter, regardless of the prognosis.
Patients provided concrete recommendations for physician and patient behaviors to enhance the consultation.
Consideration of these recommendations may result in more effective communication and increased patient satisfaction with medical visits.
physician-patient cancer communication; oncology consultations; qualitative research; focus groups; patients’ recommendations to patients; patients’ recommendations to physicians
Personal continuity in general practice is considered to be a prerequisite of high quality patient care based on shared knowledge and mutual understanding. Not much is known about how personal continuity is reflected in the content of GP – patient communication. We explored whether personal continuity of care influences the content of communication during the consultation.
Personal continuity was defined as the degree of familiarity between GP and patient, rated by both the GP and the patient. 394 videotaped consultations between GPs and patients aged 18 years and older were analyzed. GP – patient communication was evaluated with an observation checklist, which rated the following topics of conversation: (1) medical issues, (2) psychological themes, and (3) the social environment of the patient. For each of these topics we coded whether or not it received attention, and was built upon prior knowledge. Data were analyzed using multilevel logistic regression analyses.
No relationship was found between GP – patient familiarity and the discussion of medical issues, psychological themes, or the social environment of the patient. But if the patient and the GP knew each other very well, the GP more often displayed prior knowledge with the topic in question. Few patient and GP characteristics were associated with differences in content of communication.
Given the relatively small sample size, we carefully conclude that familiarity between a GP and a patient does not influence the content of the communication (medical issues, psychological themes nor topics relating to the social environment). This is remarkable because we expected that familiarity would 'open up the communication' for more psychological and social themes. GPs seem to have the communication skills to put both familiar and non-familiar patients at ease enabling them to freely raise any issue they think necessary.
This study investigated whether the introduction of professional development teaching in the first two years of a medical course improved students' observed communication skills with simulated patients. Students' observed communication skills were related to patient-centred attitudes, confidence in communicating with patients and performance in later clinical examinations.
Eighty-two medical students from two consecutive cohorts at a UK medical school completed two videoed consultations with a simulated patient: one at the beginning of year 1 and one at the end of year 2. Group 1 (n = 35) received a traditional pre-clinical curriculum. Group 2 (n = 47) received a curriculum that included communication skills training integrated into a 'professional development' vertical module. Videoed consultations were rated using the Evans Interview Rating Scale by communication skills tutors. A subset of 27% were double-coded. Inter-rater reliability is reported.
Students who had received the professional development teaching achieved higher ratings for use of silence, not interrupting the patient, and keeping the discussion relevant compared to students receiving the traditional curriculum. Patient-centred attitudes were not related to observed communication. Students who were less nervous and felt they knew how to listen were rated as better communicators. Students receiving the traditional curriculum and who had been rated as better communicators when they entered medical school performed less well in the final year clinical examination.
Students receiving the professional development training showed significant improvements in certain communication skills, but students in both cohorts improved over time. The lack of a relationship between observed communication skills and patient-centred attitudes may be a reflection of students' inexperience in working with patients, resulting in 'patient-centredness' being an abstract concept. Students in the early years of their medical course may benefit from further opportunities to practise basic communication skills on a one-to-one basis with patients.
communication skills; patient-centredness; medical student; curriculum change; video observation
Obesity, an increasing problem worldwide, is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. Management principally requires lifestyle (i.e. behavioural) changes. An evidence-base exists of behaviour change techniques for weight loss; however, in routine practice doctors are often unsure about effective treatments and commonly use theoretically-unfounded communication strategies (e.g. information-giving). It is not known if communication skills teaching during undergraduate training adequately prepares future doctors to engage in effective behaviour change talk with patients. The aim of the study was to examine which behaviour change techniques medical undergraduates use to facilitate lifestyle adjustments in obese patients.
Forty-eight medical trainees in their clinical years of a UK medical school conducted two simulated consultations each. Both consultations involved an obese patient scenario where weight loss was indicated. Use of simulated patients (SPs) ensured standardisation of key variables (e.g. barriers to behaviour change). Presentation of scenario order was counterbalanced. Following each consultation, students assessed the techniques they perceived themselves to have used. SPs rated the extent to which they intended to make behavioural changes and why. Anonymised transcripts of the audiotaped consultations were coded by independent assessors, blind to student and SP ratings, using a validated behaviour change taxonomy.
Students reported using a wide range of evidence-based techniques. In contrast, codings of observed communication behaviours were limited. SPs behavioural intention varied and a range of helpful elements of student’s communication were revealed.
Current skills-based communication programmes do not adequately prepare future doctors for the growing task of facilitating weight management. Students are able to generalise some communication skills to these encounters, but are over confident and have limited ability to use evidence-based theoretically informed techniques. They recognise this as a learning need. Educators will need to tackle the challenges of integrating theoretically informed and evidence based behaviour change talk within medical training.
Behaviour change; Obesity; Undergraduate
BACKGROUND: The simulated surgery was developed to examine the consulting skills of general practice (GP) registrars by observing their consultations with standardized patients. It was introduced in 1997 as an alternative to videotape submission in the consulting skills component of the Membership of the Royal College of General Practitioners (MRCGP) examination for those candidates who are unable to prepare a videotape. AIM: To describe the methodology of the examination and to report on the first year's experience. METHOD: The development of the cases and the techniques of marking and standard setting in the simulated surgery are described. RESULTS: Thirty-eight GP registrars took part in pilot examinations and 37 candidates were examined for the MRCGP. The distribution of their marks and the resulting pass/fail decisions are reported. The reliability of the 20-case simulated surgery, using Cronbach's alpha coefficient, is greater than 0.85. CONCLUSION: The simulated surgery is a feasible, valid, and reliable examination of consulting skills. Cost and manpower requirements remain a problem, but these are being addressed by current plans.
To assess patient expectations from a consultation with a family physician and determine the level and area of patient involvement in the communication process.
We videotaped 403 consecutive patient-physician consultations in the offices of 27 Estonian family physicians. All videotaped patients completed a questionnaire about their expectations before and after the consultation. Patient assessment of expected and obtained psychosocial support and biomedical information during the consultation with physician were compared. Two investigators independently assessed patient involvement in the consultation process on the basis of videotaped consultations, using a 5-point scale.
Receiving an explanation of biomedical information and discussing psychosocial aspects was assessed as important by 57.4-66.8% and 17.8-36.1% patients, respectively. The physicians did not meet patient expectations in the case of three biomedical aspects of consultation: cause of symptoms, severity of symptoms, and test results. Younger patients evaluated the importance of discussing psychological problems higher than older patients. The involvement of the patients was high in the problem defining process, in the physicians' overall responsiveness to the patients, and in their picking up of the patient's cues. The patients were involved less in the decision making process.
Discussing biomedical issues was more important for the patients than discussing psychological issues. The patients wanted to hear more about the cause and seriousness of their symptoms and about test results. The family physicians provided more psychosocial care than the patients had expected. Considering high patient involvement in the consultation process and the overall responsiveness of the family physicians to the patients during the consultation, Estonian physicians provide patient-centered consultations.