Effective communication is central to a successful physician–patient relationship. Communication is usually enhanced when the linguistic and cultural attributes of patients are incorporated in health care delivery. With this purpose in mind, the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottawa has developed a French-language stream to train future physicians for the francophone minority population of Ontario. As part of this project, a communication skills laboratory was created for francophone students in 1996, since all three tertiary care teaching hospitals operated in English only. The laboratory consists of a controlled environment where francophone students conduct interviews in French while being observed by clinicians trained in observation and feedback techniques. It makes use of simulated patients trained to play specific roles and to give feedback to students. Laboratory sessions take place throughout the first and second years and expose students to 15 scenarios covering different themes in each year. Each scenario includes a communication problem. Facilities are in place for filming the encounters for review by students.
The project has had favorable outcomes. Both students and clinician–supervisors find that the laboratory offers an excellent learning environment and describe the cases as realistic and instructive. Clerkship preceptors are pleased with the students' communication skills. Because of the success of the laboratory, faculty authorities plan to translate the scenarios and offer similar sessions to students in the English-language stream. The teaching methods used in the communication skills laboratory may be of interest to other medical schools that serve linguistic minority populations.
Dr. Drouin is professor of medicine, and Dr. Rivet is associate professor of family medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Correspondence and requests for reprints should be addressed to Dr. Drouin, Office of Francophone Affairs, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, 451 Smyth Road, Ottawa, ON, K1H 8M5, Canada; telephone: (613) 562-5800, extension 8266; fax: (613) 562-5420; e-mail: 〈email@example.com〉.
The authors thank Pierre Jean, MD, PhD, for his helpful suggestions and comments during the preparation of this paper.