ABSTRACT: Dis-integration of communication in healthcare education: Workplace learning challenges and opportunities
The purpose of this paper, based on a 2016 Heidelberg International Conference on Communication in Healthcare (ICCH) plenary presentation, is to examine a key problem in communication skills training for health professional learners. Studies have pointed to a decline in medical students’ communication skills and attitudes as they proceed through their education, particularly during their clinical workplace training experiences. This paper explores some of the key factors in this disintegration, drawing on selected literature and highlighting some curriculum efforts and research conducted at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine as a case study of these issues. Five key factors contributing to the disintegration of communication skills and attitudes are presented including: 1) lack of formal communication skills training during clinical clerkships; 2) informal workplace teaching failing to explicitly address learner clinical communication skills; 3) emphasizing content over process in relation to clinician-patient interactions; 4) the relationship between ideal communication models and the realities of clinical practice; and 5) clinical teachers’ lack of knowledge and skills to effectively teach about communication in the clinical workplace. Within this discussion, potential practical responses by individual clinical teachers and broader curricular and faculty development efforts to address each of these factors are presented.