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1.  Curriculum factors influencing knowledge of communication skills among medical students 
Background
Communication training builds on the assumption that understanding of the concepts related to professional communication facilitates the training. We know little about whether students' knowledge of clinical communication skills is affected by their attendance of communication training courses, or to what degree other elements of the clinical training or curriculum design also play a role. The aim of this study was to determine which elements of the curriculum influence acquisition of knowledge regarding clinical communication skills by medical students.
Methods
The study design was a cross-sectional survey performed in the four Norwegian medical schools with different curricula, spring 2003. A self-administered questionnaire regarding knowledge of communication skills (an abridged version of van Dalen's paper-and-pencil test) was sent to all students attending the four medical schools. A total of 1801 (59%) students responded with complete questionnaires.
Results
At the end of the 1st year of study, the score on the knowledge test was higher in students at the two schools running communication courses and providing early patient contact (mean 81%) than in the other two medical schools (mean 69–75%, P ≤ 0.001), with students studying a traditional curriculum scoring the lowest. Their scores increased sharply towards the end of the 3rd year, during which they had been subjected to extensive patient contact and had participated in an intensive communication course (77% vs. 72% the previous year, P ≤ 0.01). All students scored generally lower in academic years in which there was no communication training. However, at the end of the final year the difference between the schools was only 5% (81% vs. 86%, P ≤ 0.001).
Conclusion
The acquisition of knowledge regarding communication skills by medical students may be optimised when the training is given together with extensive supervised patient contact, especially if this teaching takes place in the initial years of the curriculum.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-7-35
PMCID: PMC2089059  PMID: 17925041
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

Results 1-2 (2)