Purpose: The evidence suggests that a longitudinal training of communication skills embedded in a rich clinical context is most effective. In this study we evaluated the acquisition of communication skills under such conditions.
Methods: In a longitudinal design the communication skills of a randomly selected sample of 25 trainees of a three-year postgraduate training programme for general practice were assessed at the start and at the end of training. Eight videotaped real life consultations were rated per measurement and per trainee, using the MAAS-Global scoring list. The results were compared with each other and with those of a reference group of 94 experienced GPs.
Results: The mean score of the MAAS-Global was slightly increased at the end of training (2.4) compared with the start (2.2). No significant difference was found between the final results of the trainees and the reference group. According to the criteria of the rating scale the performance of both trainees and GPs was unsatisfactory.
Conclusion: The results of this study indicate that communication skills do not improve in a three-year postgraduate training comprising both a rich clinical context and a longitudinal training of communication skills, and that an unsatisfactory level still exists at the end of training. Moreover, GPs do not acquire communication skills during independent practice as they perform comparably to the trainees. Further research into the measurement of communication skills, the teaching procedures, the role of the GP-trainer as a model and the influence of rotations through hospitals and the like, is required.