Meeting the Students on Their Own Territory

Angela Rowlands, Annie Cushing, Vivien Cook



Medical students receive communication skills training but there is little research into how effectively, or indeed whether, these skills can be transferred into clinical settings. This paper reflects upon a project aimed at supporting students in communicating with patients
in clinical settings during their undergraduate years.

During 2012, 36 year medical students were directly observed leading consultations with real patients in in-patient settings by a communications skills expert. Each observed session involved focused feedback on performance and agreeing areas for future practice involving a student peer and the member of faculty.

Results and Discussion
Students positively evaluated this work-based experience, specifically, valuing the authenticity of engaging with ‘real patients’ in ‘real settings’. They reported learning to deal with environmental issues such as noise, interruptions – the hallmark of busy clinical settings. They gained from observing the Communication Skills teacher model effective communication within the consultation process and receiving immediate focused one-to-one feedback. Moreover, they were able to maximise the feedback through immediately applying it to further consultations. The challenges of rolling out such a programme to more students are discussed.

Observed practice in work-based settings helps students to recontextualise knowledge learnt in the classroom setting. Their learning is greatly enhanced by having the supported opportunity to apply their skills in an authentic setting. However, implementing such a project can be resource intensive and logistically challenging.


communication skills, work-based learning, feedback

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PBLH, Vol 1, Issue 1 (June 2013)

The Higher Education Academy doi:10.11120/pblh.2013.00008


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