Intended for healthcare professionals


Teaching medical students and doctors how to communicate risk

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 25 September 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:694
  1. Philip Sedgwick, lecturer in medical statistics (,
  2. Angela Hall, senior lecturer in clinical communication (
  1. Departments of Community Health Sciences, Medical and Health Care Education, St George's Hospital Medical School, London SW17 0RE

    Combining the teaching of statistics with communication skills

    The need for doctors to have proficient communication skills is well recognised,1 but teaching students how to communicate risk to patients seems to have received little attention in the undergraduate medical curriculum. Primarily it is statisticians who teach the concept of probability. This ultimately translates into the communication of risk that informs the clinical consultation. Although students need to appreciate the basics of statistical methods and know the different ways to convey risk,2 it is particularly important that they have the opportunity to practise these skills under safe conditions and receive constructive feedback.1 3

    The recently established graduate entry programme at St George's Hospital Medical School in London has an integrated curriculum across all years.4 The course is delivered by using problem based learning whereby students use “triggers” from a problem case or scenario to identify their own learning issues.5 It has …

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