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Teaching Inpatient Communication Skills to Medical Students: An Innovative Strategy

Losh, David P. MD; Mauksch, Larry B. MEd; Arnold, Richard W. MD; Maresca, Theresa M. MD; Storck, Michael G. MD; Maestas, Raye R. MD; Goldstein, Erika MD, MPH

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Abstract

At the University of Washington, a group of medical educators defined a set of communication skills, or “benchmarks,” that are expected of second-year medical students conducting history and physical examinations on hospitalized patients. In order to teach the skills listed in the communication benchmarks, an educational strategy was devised that included training sessions for 30 medical teachers and the development of an innovative videotape tool used to train the teachers and their students. The benchmarks were designed in 2003 for the developmental level of the students and were based on key communication concepts and essential elements of medical communication. A set of five short videotaped scenarios was developed that illustrated various segments of a student history and physical examination. Each scenario consisted of an “OK” version of communication and a “better” version of the same scenario. The video scenarios were used in teaching sessions to help students identify effective communication techniques and to stimulate discussion about the communication benchmarks. After the training sessions, teachers and students were surveyed to assess the effectiveness of the educational methods. The majority of students felt that the educational design stimulated discussion and improved their understanding of communication skills. Faculty found the educational design useful and 95% felt that the curriculum and videotape contributed to their own education. The development of communication benchmarks illustrated with short videotaped scenarios contrasting “OK” with “better” communication skills is a useful technique that is transferable to other institutions.

Author Information

Dr. Losh is associate professor, Department of Family Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington.

Mr. Mauksch is senior lecturer, Department of Family Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington.

Dr. Arnold is clinical associate professor, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington.

Dr. Maresca is clinical assistant professor, Department of Family Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington.

Dr. Storck is assistant professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington.

Dr. Maestas is associate professor, Department of Family Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington.

Dr. Goldstein is associate professor, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Losh, Department of Family Medicine, 4245 Roosevelt Way, NE, Seattle, Washington 98105; telephone: (206) 598 2883; fax: (206) 598 5679; e-mail: 〈david_losh@fammed.washington.edu〉.

© 2005 Association of American Medical Colleges