"Talk to them"; an exploratory study of the challenges of teaching communication skills.

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Talk to Them Teaching communication skills to students of traditional chinese medicine..pdfAccepted Manuscript version515.84 kB
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Communication skills are fundamental in therapeutic communication and there is overwhelming evidence that communication is a key element in producing positive outcomes for health care workers and patients (Anderson et al. 2007). Potential barriers to effective therapeutic communication include poor communication skills on the part of the health care professional (Greenburg et al.2006). This paper reports on the first stage of a larger study and assessed an educational initiative that teaches communication skills to students in a Traditional Chinese Medical degree program (TCM). A pre course survey was completed by 37 of 41 students enrolled in a communication subject in the first year of their 4 year degree program. A further survey will be completed at the end of the course where students will be asked about their course experience and the data will be evaluated for parallel responses to determine what students thought about the teaching and learning of communication skills before and after the course. Further, communication competence is assessed using the Kalamazoo Consensus Statement (KCS) (Acad Med. 2004) and patient feedback data is collected. This is then evaluated against the pre and post course surveys completed by the students. A limitation of this study is that it was conducted in one TCM program but it is a preliminary study and will serve as a basis for further studies to increase the valuing of teaching communication skills and how to ensure the skills taught in the first year of a prgram can be applied and evaluated in clinical practice during the program and beyond. The use of complementary medicine is said to be increasing worldwide (White. 2000) and one of the reasons proposed for patients using complementary therapists instead of conventional doctors is they believe complementary therapists are better communicators (White. 2000). A challenge for faculty is to evaluate the effect of curricular innovations such as the teaching of communication skills and to ensure that students see the relevance to positive outcomes for patients and health care providers and continue to apply the skills in clinical practice and beyond.
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