Communication skills training (CST) in medicine, once considered a minor subject, is now ranked a core clinical skill. To assess the state of formal and informal CST at Dalhousie Medical School a needs assessment was undertaken in 1997 with the goal of using these findings to plan and implement a new communication skills curriculum.
This article briefly describes the relevant findings of the needs assessment, the subsequent development of an integrated cross curriculum CST programme, and early programme evaluation results.
Surveys were completed by undergraduates at the end of pre-clinical (n=65), and clinical phases (n=82), residents (n=54), and faculty (n=117). Results revealed learners' and faculty's appreciation of the importance of CST, learners' assessment of training weaknesses in the delivery of CST, learners' weakness in higher order patient--doctor communication skills, and faculty weakness in assessing learners' communication skills competency. The results also indicated that CST was generally not being addressed either formally or informally in clinical medical education.
The paper describes and discusses the subsequent implementation (beginning in 1998) of CST into the medical school curriculum. There is a description of programme development and evaluation at the pre-clinical, clerkship and postgraduate levels, a description and discussion of faculty development, and discussion of the importance of financial and administrative support for the programme.
Programme evaluation results at all levels are positive.