Improving medical students’ written communication skills: design and evaluation of an educational curriculum
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BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Written and verbal communication skills are important skills for all physicians. While verbal skills are taught and assessed in medical school, medical students report limited instruction in written communication skills. This study examined the impact of a curriculum delivered during a 6-week clinical rotation in Internal Medicine on the objective assessment of medical students' written communication skills. METHODS: The curriculum consisted of two educational programmes: a medical student communication tutorial and a resident feedback workshop. The study was conducted from March 2012 to January 2013 at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. The study featured three arms: (1) control, (2) medical student communication tutorial alone and (3) student tutorial and resident feedback workshop. Data were collected on 126 students during 6-week Internal Medicine clerkship rotations. Students' written consultation notes were collected prior to the educational programmes and at 6 weeks. Blinded faculty assessors used an independently validated Assessment Checklist to evaluate consultation notes. RESULTS: Consultation note scores improved from week 1 to week 6 across all study arms. However, the change was statistically significant only in arm 3, featuring both the medical student tutorial and the resident feedback workshop, with mean scores improving from 4.75 (SD=1.496) to 5.56 (SD=0.984) out of 7. The mean difference between week 1 and week 6 was significantly different (0.806, p=0.002, 95% CI 0.306 to 1.058). CONCLUSIONS: The combination of a resident feedback workshop with medical student written communication tutorial improves objective evaluations of consultation note scores over student tutorial alone.
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