Method: An 104-item survey was developed and distributed to 4th-year dental students (2010:N=79; 2011:N=77). The survey assessed how often students utilized 28 common communication techniques and their perceived effectiveness. Utilization was collapsed into “not available/never/rarely/occasionally=0” vs. “most/all of the time=1.” Effectiveness was re-coded as “not effective/unknown=0” vs. “effective/somewhat effective=1.” Scores were calculated by summing the responses and then dichotomized (utilization:0-8 vs. 9-28; effectiveness:0-20 vs. 21-28). Univariate and bivariate analyses were conducted. IRB approval was obtained.
Result: Response rate= 86.5%. On average, students utilized 8 techniques and believed 20 were effective. The following techniques were utilized: >90%: maintain eye contact with the patient, speak with the patient while the patient is sitting up; >80%: encourage patients to ask questions, use simple language, present information from the patient record; >50% speak slowly. <30% of students: present 2-3 concepts at a time, ask patients to repeat information, use pictures, or enlist the help of others to promote understanding; however, >60% of students believed these techniques were effective. Students who felt very comfortable (p=0.0061) and very confident (p=0.09) presenting treatment plans were more likely to use >8 techniques. Students who believed >20 techniques were effective were more likely to: 1)report lack of time as a barrier to patient understanding (p=0.02), and 2)spend more time presenting treatment plans (p=0.02) compared to students who believed that fewer methods were effective. Students who believed <21 techniques were effective were more likely to respond they were unable to provide information more simply. Gender, race, and participation in a communication course prior to dental school were not related (p>0.1) with utilization or effectiveness. Utilization and effectiveness were not associated with each other.
Conclusion: Students should be encouraged to use a variety of effective communication techniques.
Keywords: Behavioral science, Education research, Teaching and communication-health literacy
See more of: Education Research