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Book: Communication in Surgical Practice

Chapter: Chapter 16 Clinical Communication Education for Surgeons

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.26416


Each chapter of this book presents compelling arguments for enhancing communication in surgical contexts and, to that end, for also raising the bar on communication education for surgeons. This final chapter therefore focuses on teaching and learning clinical communication in surgical contexts.

Because the way we think about communication has such a significant impact on what we do, the chapter begins by highlighting four underlying assumptions that replace commonly held misperceptions about communication and answer the question: Is it really necessary to teach communication to surgeons – can’t they just get it from experience? Next we discuss six elements that help us decide what is worth teaching and learning, including: types of communication skills that help define ‘communication’, domains that clinical communication incorporates, paradigms that influence how we interact in surgical and other healthcare contexts, first principles of effective communication (and teaching), goals of communication in healthcare, and the more specific clinical communication skills that research has shown to make a difference. Finally, the chapter considers specific evidence-based strategies that comprise ‘best practices’ for teaching and learning clinical communication, i.e. practices that enhance not only surgeons’ understanding of communication but also the clinical communication skills and capacities surgeons actually apply in practice settings.

Both the concepts about clinical communication and the strategies for teaching and learning it are essential if we want to develop programs at any level – from undergraduate to postgraduate and beyond – that significantly impact how surgeons (choose to) communicate with patients, colleagues, surgical teams, students, and others.

Chapter Contributors

  • Suzanne Kurtz ( - skurtz) 'Washington State University'