Preparing medical students to become attentive listeners

Med Teach. 2009 Jan;31(1):22-9. doi: 10.1080/01421590802350776.


Background: The ability to listen is critically important to many human endeavors and is the object of scholarly inquiry by a large variety of disciplines. While the characteristics of active listening skills in clinical practice have been elucidated previously, a cohesive set of principles to frame the teaching of these skills at the undergraduate medical level has not been described.

Aims: The purpose of this study was to identify the principles that underlie the teaching of listening to medical students. We term this capacity, attentive listening.

Methods: The authors relied extensively on prior work that clarified how language works in encounters between patients and physicians. They also conducted a review of the applicable medical literature and consulted with experts in applied linguistics and narrative theory.

Results: They developed a set of eight core principles of attentive listening. These were then used to design specific teaching modules in the context of curriculum renewal at the Faculty of Medicine, McGill University.

Conclusions: Principles that are pragmatic in nature and applicable to medical education have been developed and successfully deployed in an undergraduate medical curriculum.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Auditory Perception
  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Curriculum / standards
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods*
  • Ethics, Clinical / education
  • Humans
  • Models, Educational*
  • Needs Assessment / standards*
  • Professional-Patient Relations*
  • Students, Medical
  • United States
  • Verbal Behavior*