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Workshops for consultants on the teaching of clinical communication skills


Dr Julian Bird, Portnalls Unit, Farnborough Hospital, Farnborough Common, Orpington, Kent BR6 8ND, UK.


Summary. A group of senior medical school staff concerned about the short-lived effects of communication training formed the Medical Interview Teaching Association. They felt that communication training needed to be reinforced throughout the curriculum and that this would need active involvement by large numbers of consultants. To achieve this they planned a series of workshops. Seventeen consultants and eight other senior staff agreed to participate in the pilot workshop. This was a 3 1/2-day residential workshop. The structure was adapted from a ‘faculty development’ model used successfully in the USA. Participants worked mostly in small groups helped by experienced facilitators. The teaching style was learner centred and therefore the details of the problem-based agenda and the choice of working methods were largely determined by the participants themselves. There were also some conventional lectures and demonstrations. Evaluation was by postal questionnaire 2 weeks later. This requested both qualitative comments and Likert scale ratings about every aspect of process and outcome. Most responses were strongly positive. Participants felt they made good progress in developing new skills and new curriculum ideas. They also felt more motivated and self-aware as teachers. The learner-centred approach and the diversity of learning activities were seen as very useful. The unstructured approach to self-awareness training was felt to be less useful. It is concluded that such workshops could well lead to more effective communication training and may also have wider implications for medical education.

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