Medical students’ attitudes towards communication skills training: a longitudinal study with one cohort.

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GMS Journal for Medical Education
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Objectives: To explore medical students’ attitudes towards communication skills and the evolution of these attitudes from their first to fourth academic years. Methods: A cohort of 91 medical students completed the Communication Skills Attitudes Scale (CSAS) at the beginning of their medical studies and at the end of their fourth year after having engaged in a training program in communication skills with experiential characteristics (individual encounters with simulated patients, observations in small groups, feedback, and practice). We analyzed students’ positive and negative global attitudes and their affective, cognitive, and respect dimensions towards learning communication skills. Results: Medical students’ attitudes toward communication skills declined from their first (52.8) to fourth year (49.6) (p=.011). Along with this significant decrease in positive attitudes, a significant increase in negative attitudes toward communication skills was also observed in trained students (32.2 vs. 34.2; p=.023). The decline in students’ attitudes mainly involves a decline in their affective (51.4 vs. 47.3, p=.001) but not cognitive (18.3) attitudes. Female students have more positive attitudes towards communication skills than male students. Conclusions: The decline in students’ attitudes, mainly in the affective dimension, could be related to their accumulated learning experiences during the learning process and particularly their experiential training in communication skills. Nevertheless, the importance students give to communication skills in the cognitive dimension remains unchanged. Students’ gender also seems to influence their attitudes. Further research is needed to assess the role of other factors involved in this decrease in positive and affective attitudes.

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Communication skills, Experiential learning, Longitudinal study, Medical education, Medical students