The Impact of a Communication Skills Workshop on Doctors' Behavior Over Time

Adv Med Educ Pract. 2020 Apr 15;11:289-294. doi: 10.2147/AMEP.S216642. eCollection 2020.


Purpose: Communication skills education is still relatively new in some non-Western countries. Further, most evaluation research on communication skills education examines only short-term results. In our communication skills program in Qatar, we aimed to: 1) assess the impact of the communication skills course on participant skills application; 2) assess the length of time since course completion associated with participant skills application; and 3) assess participant gender or clinical position associated with participant skills application.

Methods: Seven hundred and thirty-eight physicians completed a seven-module communication skills course. Participants reflected on what they learned in the course and how the course had impacted their behavior through a nine-item online survey that included a four-item Communication Workshop Impact Scale (CWIS), three open questions, and two demographic questions. To assess the effect of time since workshop on outcomes, we stratified the respondents into five groups based on how long ago they had completed the course.

Results: Three hundred and thirty-two physicians completed the survey. Participants reported agreement with the items on the CWIS: X=4.45 (range 1-5; SD=0.70). When asked which skill(s) they had been able to implement in their clinical practice, 235 gave a specific response, either a specific communication skill (eg, ask open questions), a higher-order category of skills (eg, questioning skills), or the name of one of the seven modules of the course. Only 28 participants listed the name of a skill or module name that they had not been able to implement. There was no evidence of difference in CWIS score based on time since course completion. There was no gender difference; however, residents had significantly lower CWIS scores than fellows (4.70 vs. 4.29, p<0.05).

Conclusion: Participants reported agreement with response items about the impact of the course on their skills application. Participant gender did not play a significant role, but residents had lower scores than did fellows. Furthermore, most physicians (92%) were able to name something specific that they had learned from the course and were currently implementing in their practice. Positive outcomes of the course did not seem to diminish over time. Future research should identify whether observable communication behavior matches the self-reported behavior.

Keywords: communication skills training; medical education; physician–patient communication.