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1.  Observed communication skills: how do they relate to the consultation content? A nation-wide study of graduate medical students seeing a standardized patient for a first-time consultation in a general practice setting 
Background
In this study, we wanted to investigate the relationship between background variables, communication skills, and the bio-psychosocial content of a medical consultation in a general practice setting with a standardized patient.
Methods
Final-year medical school students (N = 111) carried out a consultation with an actor playing the role of a patient with a specific somatic complaint, psychosocial stressors, and concerns about cancer. Based on videotapes, communication skills and consultation content were scored separately.
Results
The mean level of overall communication skills had a significant impact upon the counts of psychosocial issues, the patient's concerns about cancer, and the information and planning parts of the consultation content being addressed. Gender and age had no influence upon the relationship between communication skills and consultation content.
Conclusion
Communication skills seem to be important for final-year students' competence in addressing sensitive psychosocial issues and patients' concerns as well as informing and planning with patients being representative for a fairly complex case in general practice. This result should be considered in the design and incorporation of communication skills training as part of the curriculum of medical schools.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-7-43
PMCID: PMC2213643  PMID: 17996053
2.  Assessing medical students' attitudes towards learning communication skills – which components of attitudes do we measure? 
Background
The Communication Skills Attitudes Scale (CSAS) created by Rees, Sheard and Davies and published in 2002 has been a widely used instrument for measuring medical students' attitudes towards learning communication skills. Earlier studies have shown that the CSAS mainly tests two dimensions of attitudes towards communication; positive attitudes (PAS) and negative attitudes (NAS). The objectives of our study are to explore the attitudes of Norwegian medical students towards learning communication skills, and to compare our findings with reports from other countries.
Methods
The CSAS questionnaire was mailed simultaneously to all students (n = 3055) of the four medical schools in Norway in the spring of 2003. Response from 1833 students (60.0%) were analysed by use of SPSS ver.12.
Results
A Principal component analysis yielded findings that differ in many respects from those of earlier papers. We found the CSAS to measure three factors. The first factor describes students' feelings about the way communication skills are taught, whereas the second factor describes more fundamental attitudes and values connected to the importance of having communication skills for doctors. The third factor explores whether students feel that good communication skills may help them respecting patients and colleagues.
Conclusion
Our findings indicate that in this sample the CSAS measures broader aspects of attitudes towards learning communication skills than the formerly described two-factor model with PAS and NAS. This may turn out to be helpful for monitoring the effect of different teaching strategies on students' attitudes during medical school.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-7-4
PMCID: PMC1851955  PMID: 17394673

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