Editorials

Clinical and communication skills

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.330.7488.374 (Published 17 February 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:374
  1. Jane Kidd, reader in communication skills (jane.kidd@warwick.ac.uk),
  2. Vinod Patel, reader in clinical skills,
  3. Ed Peile, head of medical education,
  4. Yvonne Carter, dean
  1. Medical Teaching Centre, Warwick Medical School, Coventry CV4 7AL

    Need to be learnt side by side

    Teaching clinical skills to undergraduates focuses on examination, planning treatment, safe prescribing, and procedures such as venepuncture, suturing, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.1 Curriculums for communication skills aim to develop effective (clear and sensitive) communication with patients, carers, and colleagues. Skills include being able to take a history and share information, particularly explaining procedures and discussing treatment options and their effects.1 When working with patients and colleagues, communication and clinical skills are practised simultaneously, yet most medical school curriculums teach them separately, albeit in parallel.

    The current practice of teaching communication skills separately from clinical skills reflects a reductionist paradigm—by breaking down the complex phenomenon of a consulatation to its basic components. This may be helpful at an early stage of learning, but it may limit the coherence needed to ensure that doctors communicate satisfactorily with patients.

    Those who teach communication skills have moved on from …

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