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Patient Educ Couns. 2011 Sep;84(3):310-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2011.03.007. Epub 2011 Apr 8.

Medical students trained in communication skills show a decline in patient-centred attitudes: an observational study comparing two cohorts during clinical clerkships.

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University of Antwerp, Department of Primary and Interdisciplinary Care, Wilrijk, Belgium.



Literature indicates a decline in patient-centredness in medical students, especially during clinical clerkships. We examined the impact of preclinical communication skills training (CST) on students' development of patient-centred attitudes and attitudes toward CST during clerkships.


We prospectively compared two cohorts before and after clerkships: one cohort (n=48) had not received CST, whereas the other (n=37) had received a five-year CST. We assessed the impact using five validated questionnaires.


Communication trained students slightly but significantly declined in patient-centred attitudes (3/4 scales) and attitudes toward CST during clerkships, whereas the scores of the untrained students remained stable (5/5 scales). Both cohorts did not differ in attitudes before clerkships. In the trained cohort, males mostly showed a sharper decline than females. In the total group (n=85), females demonstrated higher attitude scores toward CST, and in 1/4 scales measuring patient-centred attitudes.


This cohort study suggests that CST might make students more vulnerable to decline in attitude scores during clerkships.


These remarkable findings, contrary to what educators would expect to result from their efforts, challenge medical education to address the new questions that are raised about the validity of the questionnaires, the impact of CST and the learning processes involved in the development of patient-centredness.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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