Student-informed directives for clinical communication skills training in undergraduate healthcare programmes: Perspectives from a South African university

E C Janse van Vuuren, M Nel


Background. Clinical communication skills (CCS) are fundamental to good-quality healthcare and health outcomes, but remain problematic for healthcare students – in particular in the multilingual, multicultural South African context. As CCS can be taught, the importance of CCS training in healthcare programmes, as the basis of clinical practice, is well known.

Objectives. To suggest practical, student-informed directives for CCS training, we explored current challenges of undergraduate healthcare students and their CCS training.

Methods. The research was conducted in two phases. A mixed-methods approach was followed in phase 1, including a questionnaire survey (n=38) and semi-structured interviews (n=19), among third-year physiotherapy students. A quantitative questionnaire survey was conducted in phase 2 among final-year allied healthcare students (n=105).

Results. Results from phase 1 indicated that students found it difficult to communicate with other members of the healthcare team (64%) and with patients’ families (82%). Students indicated that language barriers influenced their treatment of patients negatively. In phase 2 of the research, only 43% of students indicated previous exposure to CCS training, and they supported the inclusion of specific CCS training methods throughout their undergraduate education.

Conclusions. CCS training directives, which are specifically focused on patient, family, interdisciplinary and written communication and enhancement of the student voice in the training, are suggested for inclusion in undergraduate healthcare programmes.

Authors' affiliations

E C Janse van Vuuren, Department of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa

M Nel, Department of Biostatistics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa

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Healthcare communication skills; Clinical communication skills; Undergraduate communication skills training

Cite this article

African Journal of Health Professions Education 2018;10(4):199-204. DOI:10.7196/AJHPE.2018.v10i4.1009

Article History

Date submitted: 2018-12-06
Date published: 2018-12-06

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