ABSTRACT: Design, dissemination, and evaluation of an advanced communication elective at seven U.S. medical schools.
To test educational methods that continue communication training into the fourth year of medical school.
The authors disseminated and evaluated an advanced communication elective in seven U.S. medical schools between 2007 and 2009; a total of 9 faculty and 22 fourth-year students participated. The elective emphasized peer learning, practice with real patients, direct observation, and applications of video technology. The authors used qualitative and quantitative survey methods and video review to evaluate the experience of students and faculty.
Students reported that the elective was better than most medical school clerkships they had experienced. Their self-confidence in time management and in the use of nine communication skills improved significantly. The most valued course components were video review, repeated practice with real patients, and peer observation. Analysis of student videos with real patients and in role-plays showed that some skills (e.g., agenda setting, understanding the patient perspective) were more frequently demonstrated than others (e.g., exploring family and cultural values, communication while using the electronic health record). Faculty highly valued this learner-centered model and reported that their self-awareness and communication skills grew as teachers and as clinicians.
Learner-centered methods such as peer observation and video review and editing may strengthen communication training and reinforce skills introduced earlier in medical education. The course design may counteract a “hidden curriculum” that devalues respectful interactions with trainees and patients. Future research should assess the impact of course elements on skill retention, attitudes for lifelong learning, and patients’ health outcomes.