gms | German Medical Science

Jahrestagung der Gesellschaft für Medizinische Ausbildung (GMA)

25.09. - 27.09.2014, Hamburg

Clinical communication teaching – why bother?


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  • corresponding author presenting/speaker Jonathan Silverman - University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England

Jahrestagung der Gesellschaft für Medizinische Ausbildung (GMA). Hamburg, 25.-27.09.2014. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2014. DocK1

doi: 10.3205/14gma001, urn:nbn:de:0183-14gma0014

Published: September 11, 2014

© 2014 Silverman.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.



Why bother with communication teaching?

  • are there problems in communication between health professionals and patients
  • is there evidence that communication skills can overcome these problems and make a difference to patients, professionals and outcomes of care?

Can you learn communication?

  • isn’t it all a matter of learning by experience or osmosis?
  • isn't it really a matter of personality, that some people can do it and others will never be able to?
  • is there evidence that communication skills can be taught and learned?
  • is there evidence that learning is retained?

Is the prize on offer to health professionals and patients worth the effort?

  • will expending the effort on communication skills learning produce worthwhile rewards for both professionals and patients?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, then we can all relax and get back to our busy worlds without worrying about yet another whole area to teach and the need to create a curriculum for all health professionals. But if the answer is “yes”, then we ignore communication skills teaching at our peril. In this plenary, I will look at examples that demonstrate the central importance of communication to effective high-quality healthcare, explore the evidence that communication can be taught and learnt and look at the implications for us all.