ABSTRACT: A collaborative strategy to improve geriatric medical education
Age-related demographic change is not being matched by a growth in relevant undergraduate medical education, in particular communication skills pertinent to elderly patients. To address this, a workshop for medical students focusing on important communication skills techniques for interacting with patients with dementia was designed by clinicians from the Geriatric, General Practice and Psychiatry departments at the University of Oxford.
One hundred and forty-four first-year clinical students (Year 4 of the 6-year course; Year 2 of the 4-year graduate-entry course) attended the teaching. One hundred and twenty-nine students returned feedback forms with 104 forms matched for individual performance before and after the session. Feedback forms assessed student-perceived confidence in communicating with patients with dementia before and after the session using a 4-point Likert scale with corresponding numerical value (low (1), medium (2), high (3), very high (4)).
Using the Wilcoxon Signed-Rank Test on the 104 matched forms, student-perceived confidence was higher post-teaching intervention (median = 2.75) than pre-intervention (median = 1.50). This difference was statistically significant with large effect size, Z = -8.47, P < 0.001, r = -0.59. Free-text comments focused on non-verbal communication skills teaching, suggesting that these sessions were most beneficial for topics hardest to teach in lecture-based approaches.
The teaching aimed to promote patient-centred care and multidisciplinary collaborative practice, encourage student self-reflection and peer-assisted education and provide insight into the needs of patients with dementia. Student feedback indicated that these objectives had been met. This easily replicable teaching method provides a simple means of improving communication skills.