Teaching Communication Skills “a Priority” in Health Sciences Education
Health Science graduates need to be well trained in effective communication skills to meet society’s many healthcare needs.
This was highlighted at a recent lecture organised by the College of Health Sciences (CHS) Teaching and Learning Office under the new Deanship of Professor Sabiha Essack.
The interactive lecture was delivered by Professor Johnathan Silverman, the President of the European Association for Communication in Healthcare and recently retired from the University of Cambridge’s School of Clinical Medicine where he was an Associate Clinical Dean.
Silverman’s lecture titled: “Rationale for Communication Skills Teaching in Health Sciences or Clinical Communication Teaching - Why Bother?”, was attended by CHS academics from several disciplines across the College.
The lecture highlighted whether students were adequately trained to become effective communicators when they entered the healthcare workforce.
Silverman’s lecture provided an answer for questions such as:
Was it possible to identify problems in communication between health professionals and patients? Was there evidence that teaching effective communication skills to students could overcome these problems and make a difference to patients, professionals and outcomes of care?
Silverman said evidence suggested that most misdiagnoses could have been avoided if the health professional had effective two-way communication skills.
He said integrating communication skills to the teaching and learning of health sciences students was a way of ensuring that patients received not only the correct diagnosis but also a level of care which could only be enhanced by the good listening skills and engagement by healthcare professionals.
‘Clinical competence is the ability to integrate knowledge, physical examination or technical skills, problem-solving, and communication.
‘There is conclusive evidence that communication can be taught and the skills retained’.
Sharing his own experiences, Silverman said teaching communication made an incredible difference to the outcomes of care.
His lecture, presented using audio-visual cases of communication between patients and doctors as well as student doctors, made it clear that there was a need for health sciences curricular to include the teaching communication skills.
He said in the health sciences communication skills tied in well with professionalism, evidence-based practice, reflective practice, and ethical and legal practice.
Silverman’s lecture was part of a four-day workshop initiated by the CHS Teaching and Learning Office as part of its Graduate Competency Initiative led by Essack.