Students' attitudes towards learning communication skills: correlating attitudes, demographic and metacognitive variables
International Journal of Medical Education
Objectives: This study aimed at exploring the relationship of students' attitudes towards learning communication skills to demographic variables, metacognitive skills, and to the appreciation of patient-oriented care. Methods: The cross-sectional survey study involved firstand third-term students from two traditional and two problem-based curricula (N= 351). Demographic variables, attitudes towards communication skills learning, patient orientation, and awareness of learning strategies were
... strategies were assessed. Differences in attitude measures were assessed with t-tests and univariate comparisons. With multiple linear regressions predictor variables of students' attitudes towards communication skills learning and patient-oriented care were identified. Results: A positive attitude towards learning communication skills was predicted by a caring patient orientation, selfregulation of learning strategies, and female gender (R 2 = 0.23; F (9,310) = 9.72; p < 0.001). Students' caring patient orientation was predicted by their attitudes towards learning communication skills, female gender, and higher age (R 2 = 0.23; F (9,307) = 13.48; p < 0.001). Students from a traditional curriculum were least interested in learning communication skills (F (3, 346) = 26.75; p <0.001). Conclusions: Students' attitudes towards learning communication skills and their caring patient orientation are interrelated. However, communication skills are considered as more positive by students with good self-regulatory skills. Early training of self-regulation and the training of communication skills in mixed-gender groups are recommended. From the beginning of medical studies, students should acquire patient-oriented attitudes and communication skills. 1,2 This implies an interest in improving their personal communication competence. 3 However, negative attitudes towards learning communication skills are common, as students do not recognize the training of communication skills as an important part of academic education and medical practice, or do not perceive a need to improve their own skills.      Several variables are assumed to affect attitudes towards communication skills training, e.g. the appreciation of patient-oriented care. 9 Problem-based curricula provide preferable contexts for acquiring patient-oriented compe-tencies and a positive attitude towards doctor-patient communication. 10-13 They involve interactive learning, contact with clinical contexts, and the integration of professional development training. 1,14-18 Among personal variables, female students, in particular those with work experience in healthcare, express more interest in patient-oriented care, and in learning communication skills. 19, 20 This study aimed at assessing the relationship of beginning medical students' attitudes towards communication skills training and towards patient-oriented care to demographic variables, awareness of learning strategies, and teaching approaches.