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Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract. 2009 Aug;14(3):441-50. doi: 10.1007/s10459-007-9097-8. Epub 2008 Jan 24.

A proposal for overcoming problems in teaching interviewing skills to medical students.

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Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute, The Smokler Center for Health Policy Research, P.O. Box 3886, Jerusalem 91037, Israel.


The objective of this paper is to draw attention to four features that distinguish the pedagogy of patient interviewing from the teaching of other clinical skills: (a) students are not naïve to the skill to be learned, (b) they encounter role models with a wide variability in interviewing styles, (c) clinical teachers are not usually specialists in the behavioral sciences, including patient interviewing, and (d) the validity of the methods used for assessment of interviewing skills is uncertain. We propose to adjust the teaching of patient interviewing to these features by (a) gaining an insight into the students' views and using these views as a point of departure for discussions of patient interviewing; (b) helping students to understand why different clinicians use different communication styles; (c) providing the clinical tutors with additional training that will help them function as both specialists who share their expertise with the students and facilitators of small-group learning; and (d) using assessment methods that encourage joint deliberation by the learner and the examiner, rather than a judgmental right-wrong dualism by the examiner alone. The teaching approach that we suggest is consistent with current theories of adult learning, and it occurs in an egalitarian rather than a hierarchical environment. Hopefully, students will also adopt such egalitarian attitudes toward patients, thereby reducing the tendency to a paternalistic communication style.

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