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Patient Educ Couns. 2011 Jul;84(1):84-9. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2010.05.010. Epub 2010 Jun 12.

Learning clinical communication skills: outcomes of a program for professional practitioners.

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Department of Medical Psychology at the School of Medicine, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal.



To assess the effects of a communication skills program on professional practitioners' performance and self-confidence in clinical interviewing.


Twenty-five health professionals took 3 months of basic communication skills followed by 3 months of advanced communication skills. An additional quarter dealt with self-awareness and communication in special situations. Participants' performances were evaluated in clinical interviews with standardized patients before, during and after the program by external observers and standardized patients, using standardized instruments. Participants assessed their own confidence in their communication skills before and after the program. Data were analysed using GLM repeated-measures procedures in SPSS.


Basic communication skills and self-confidence improved throughout the 6 months; competencies declined but self-confidence continued to increase 4 months later. Compared with taking no course, differences were statistically significant after the 6 months (external observers only) and 4 months later (external observers and participants).


The program effectively improved communication skills, although significantly only when assessed by external observers. Four months later, effects were significant in communication skills (external observers), despite the decline and in self-confidence.


While periodical enrollment in programs for the practice of communication skills may help maintain performance, more knowledge on communication and self-awareness may enhance self-confidence.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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