Communication Skills in Health Care (Part I): Basic Communication Skills



Amer Eltwati Ben Irhuma

Surgical Department, Faculty of Medicine, Sebha University, Sebha, Libya.

JMJ 2010,Vol.10, No.1:02-04


Training to be a doctor involves the acquisition of knowledge, skills and appropriate attitudes. The ability to communicate well with patients- to build up a trusting relationship within which curing, relieving and comforting can take place, is a great challenge that, as Sir Charles Fletcher pointed out and should always be remembered. Like many aspects of medical education, it was assumed until recently that students acquire good communication skills and appropriate attitudes by a sort of osmosis, by observing and modelling their behaviour on that of their teachers. As we have already seen, however, this may not produce doctors who are good communicators. It is now recognized that the apprenticeship method is not sufficient and that formal training in communication skills is necessary and effective. Medical schools have responded by introducing communication skills as a formal and important part of the curriculum and assessment. There is evidence from Maguire’s work that students learn communication skills most effectively if the following conditions are fulfilled: Students are given written instructions about the information to be obtained from training and the skills to be used. The skills are demonstrated by the teacher. Students are given opportunities to practice these skills with real or simulated patients under controlled conditions. Students are given feedback on their performance by audio- or videotaped replay. Students are able to discuss their performance and related issues with a tutor. Learning to communicate well does not stop at the end of the undergraduate course, we all need to develop and hone our communication skills with patients, relatives and colleagues throughout our professional lives. This is recognized recently in the postgraduate examinations, where communication skills are formally assessed.