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Open Access Research article

Cross-sectional evaluation of a longitudinal consultation skills course at a new UK medical school

Alexia Papageorgiou*, Susan Miles, Michelle Fromage, Julie Kemmy and Sam J Leinster

Author Affiliations

Norwich Medical School, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK

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BMC Medical Education 2011, 11:55  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-11-55

Published: 8 August 2011

Abstract

Background

Good communication is a crucial element of good clinical care, and it is important to provide appropriate consultation skills teaching in undergraduate medical training to ensure that doctors have the necessary skills to communicate effectively with patients and other key stakeholders. This article aims to provide research evidence of the acceptability of a longitudinal consultation skills strand in an undergraduate medical course, as assessed by a cross-sectional evaluation of students' perceptions of their teaching and learning experiences.

Methods

A structured questionnaire was used to collect student views. The questionnaire comprised two parts: 16 closed questions to evaluate content and process of teaching and 5 open-ended questions. Questionnaires were completed at the end of each consultation skills session across all year groups during the 2006-7 academic year (5 sessions in Year 1, 3 in Year 2, 3 in Year 3, 10 in Year 4 and 10 in Year 5). 2519 questionnaires were returned in total.

Results

Students rated Tutor Facilitation most favourably, followed by Teaching, then Practice & Feedback, with suitability of the Rooms being most poorly rated. All years listed the following as important aspects they had learnt during the session:

• how to structure the consultation

• importance of patient-centredness

• aspects of professionalism (including recognising own limits, being prepared, generally acting professionally).

All years also noted that the sessions had increased their confidence, particularly through practice.

Conclusions

Our results suggest that a longitudinal and integrated approach to teaching consultation skills using a well structured model such as Calgary-Cambridge, facilitates and consolidates learning of desired process skills, increases student confidence, encourages integration of process and content, and reinforces appreciation of patient-centredness and professionalism.