Objective: To explore the views and experiences of general practice (GP) vocational trainees regarding communication skills (CS) and the teaching and learning of these skills.
Methods: A purposive sample of second and third (final) year GP trainees took part in six focus group (FG) discussions. Transcripts were coded and analysed in accordance with a grounded theory approach by two investigators using Alas-ti software. Finally results were triangulated by means of semi-structured telephone interviews.
Results: The analysis led to three thematic clusters: (1) trainees acknowledge the essential importance of communication skills and identified contextual factors influencing the learning and application of these skills; (2) trainees identified preferences for learning and receiving feedback on their communication skills; and (3) trainees perceived that the assessment of communication skills is subjective. These themes are organised into a framework for a better understanding of trainees' communication skills as part of their vocational training.
Conclusions: The framework helps in leading to a better understanding of the way in which trainees learn and apply communication skills.
Practice implications: The unique context of vocational training should be taken into account when trainees' communication skills are assessed. The teaching and learning should be guided by a learner-centred approach. The framework is valuable for informing curricular reform and future research.