How do United Kingdom (UK) medical schools identify and support undergraduate medical students who 'fail' communication assessments? A national survey.
BACKGROUND: The doctor's ability to communicate effectively (with patients, relatives, advocates and healthcare colleagues) relates directly to health outcomes, and so is core to clinical practice. The remediation of medical students' clinical communication ability is rarely addressed in medical education literature. There is nothing in the current literature reporting a contemporary national picture of how communication difficulties are managed, and the level of consequence (progression implications) for students of performing poorly. This survey aimed to consolidate practices for identifying and processes for managing students who 'fail' communication assessments across all UK medical schools.
METHODS: Data were collected via an email survey to all leads for clinical communication in all UK Medical Schools for the UK Council for Clinical Communication in Undergraduate Medical Education.
RESULTS: All but two participating Schools reported some means of support and/or remediation in communication. There was diversity of approach, and variance in the level of systemisation adopted. Variables such as individuality of curricula, resourcing issues, student cohort size and methodological preferences were implicated as explaining diversity. Support is relatively ad hoc, and often in the hands of a particular dedicated individual or team with an interest in communication delivery with few Schools reporting robust, centralised, school level processes.
CONCLUSIONS: This survey has demonstrated that few Medical Schools have no identifiable system of managing their students' clinical communication difficulties. However, some Schools reported ad hoc approaches and only a small number had a centralised programme. There is scope for discussion and benchmarking of best practice across all Schools with allocation of appropriate resources to support this.