Communication training for medical students generally focuses on communicating with unimpaired individuals. This article describes how a speech and language therapy department at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden trialled a new approach to teaching medical students. Fifty-nine undergraduate medical students received a 45-minute lecture on speech and language disorders. Twenty-six of these went on to participate in a workshop, which included demonstrations of communication aids and interacting with speech and language therapy students (who had been trained to act as people with stroke-related aphasia or Parkinson’s disease). In these role-play situations, students practised using communication strategies they were learning about. All 59 medical students were asked to complete a rating scale that included rating their own confidence in supporting communication, their knowledge of suitable strategies and their attitude to people with communication difficulties. The results demonstrated more improved confidence, knowledge and a change in attitude in the medical students who had received the additional workshop. This is not surprising when one considers previous discussion that has emphasised the need for practical follow-up to maximise mastery of practical skills in conversation. There can be many barriers to training other professions in interacting with people with communication difficulties (including institutional and environmental). Embedding these skills at an undergraduate level, however, can enable patients to communicate more easily with medical professionals and can ensure a more positive relationship between professions in the longer term.

Teaching medical students about communication in speech-language disorders: effects of a lecture and a workshop.
Saldert C, Forsgren E, Hartelius L.
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Anna Volkmer

UCL, London, UK.

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