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The impact of early exposure to standardized patient interviews on communication skills among pre-clinical BA/MD students: A mixed methods study

Edwin Kraemer, Nathan Driskill, Angellar Manguvo, Jennifer Quaintance.


Objectives: To investigate whether participation in formative standardized patient interviews (SPIs) earlier in the curriculum of a 6-year accelerated BA/MD program would improve students’ communication skills, as well as to explore self-perceptions of the development of those skills.

Methods: We randomly selected 23 Year 2 students to participate in an Intervention, and then purposively selected 23 matching students for a Control group. All participants underwent the usual educational experiences; however, participants in the Intervention group also experienced four video-recorded SPIs over the course of the academic year. Formative feedback was provided to the students by the standardized patients, and subsequently by faculty who viewed the videos. Participants in the Intervention group and their faculty periodically completed self-report surveys. During the first semester of Year 3, all students underwent a series of three SPI-based Clinical Performance Assessments (CPAs), assessing communication skills, professionalism, and history taking. We then compared the CPA scores of the Intervention and the Control groups. We also examined survey responses quantitatively and qualitatively to determine faculty and students’ self-perceptions.

Results: The Intervention group scored significantly higher than the Control group in the total score for the three CPAs. Survey responses showed that early participation in SPIs enhanced students’ comfort level and skills in interviewing “real” patients.

Conclusions: This study suggests that earlier implementation of pre-clinical SPIs provides valuable formative assessment to students on their communication and patient interviewing skills, and prepares them for future standardized and “real” patient encounters.

Key words: Standardized patient interviews, Communication skills, Professionalism

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