Evidence demonstrates that medical students have limited experience in developing ‘higher-order communication skills’ (Kaufman et al. 2000). Anecdotally many do not feel confident in their ability to conduct difficult conversations often due to a lack of exposure to such scenarios in practice or a pervasive notion that these scenarios are inappropriate for students and beyond the scope of a junior doctor’s role and thus not a focus of curriculums (Noble et al. 2007). There is however a correlation between level of clinical experience and improved confidence for medical students (Morgan and Cleave-Hogg 2002).
We surveyed a group of final year medical students to assess their confidence using a 10-point Likert scale in tackling common palliative and end of life care scenarios. Our intervention comprised a study day of 10 practical small-group teaching simulation and OSCE-style stations designed to provide exposure to common experiences in a controlled setting. We reassessed the confidence of students after delivery and objectively explored the impact of the day by asking participants to complete a validated assessment before and after the course. All results showed significant improvement on t-testing: confidence in end of life communication in an OSCE setting improved by 42.2% and assessment marks improved by 24.7% (p=0.039).
Palliative care is an area in which students approaching the end of undergraduate training feel underprepared. Our findings demonstrate that small group sessions improve confidence by facilitating communication practice in a controlled environment and providing crucial exposure to common palliative care scenarios they will face as doctors.
. Kaufman D, Laidlaw T, Macleod H. Communication skills in medical school: Exposure confidence and performance. Academic Medicine [online] 2000;75(10):S90–S92. Available at https://journals.lww.com/academicmedicine/Fulltext/2000/10001/Communication_Skills_in_Medical_School__Exposure.29.aspx [Accessed: 30 May 2018]
. Morgan P, Cleave-Hogg D. Comparison between medical students’ experience confidence and competence. Medical Education [online] 2002;36(6):534–539. Available at https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2923.2002.01228.x [Accessed: 30 May 2018]
. Noble L, Kubacki A, Martin J, Lloyd M. The effect of professional skills training on patient-centredness and confidence in communicating with patients. Medical Education [online] 2007;41(5):432–440. Available at https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2929.2007.02704.x [Accessed: 30 May 2018]
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