There was a buzz as 25 doctors of different levels and specialities as well as 2 dentists, acted out role-plays in small groups. Some were acting as patients, others relatives and others doctors as they practised the skills they had just learnt about how to break bad news. This was one of the scenes from the 1st Communication Skills Workshop held for 5 days days, 23rd - 27th October 2010, at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Aden University. It was a small triumph to gather so many specialists, even across faculties, to work together to develop their communication skills with patients.
How doctors talk with patients is of major importance during the medical consultation and research has shown that the skills needed to communicate effectively with patients can be taught and retained by medical staff. Furthermore improved communication leads to increased job satisfaction for doctors and more importantly, improved outcomes of care for patients. This means that patients and communities are healthier.
Unfortunately, the current situation in Yemen is that medical students and doctors are poorly prepared for communicating effectively with patients and there is a great need for expert training in this area. Following the identification of this need, a DelPHE (Development Partnerships in Higher Education) Project proposal “To Incorporate a Communication Skills Syllabus into the Medical Curriculum at Aden University” was submitted by Aden University, Yemen and University of East Anglia, UK, with support from Cambridge University, UK. The DelPHE Project will run for 3 years and is funded by the British Council and Department for International Development, UK. The aim of DelPHE projects is to build and strengthen the capacity of Higher Education Institutions to contribute towards the Millennium Development Goals (such as the reduction of maternal and infant mortality) and promote science and technology related knowledge and skills.
Dr Anisa Mohammed Abood, Vice Dean for Postgraduate Affairs and Project Director, explained, “This DelPHE Project is very important to develop communication skills throughout the Medical Faculty and beyond. We want to train young active doctors who will be responsible for training undergraduate medical students and continue this work even after the Project is completed.”.
Dr Juliet Draper, Consultant in Communication Skills, East of England Deanery, UK and Dr Abdul-Salam Sultan, Lecturer in Communication Skills, Ministry of Health, Baghdad, Iraq, lead and facilitated this interactive 1st Communication Skills Workshop. Over the 5 days through a series of mini-lectures, demonstrations, role-play, feedback and group work, participants learnt the important skills necessary for effective communication such as empathy, listening, and non-verbal responses. They were also given a framework to assist in their consulting, the Calgary-Cambridge Communication Method, which provides an evidenced based structure for the medical interview. Participants learnt how to teach communication skills to other academic staff and undergraduate medical students. Specific consulting difficulties, such as consulting with relatives present or breaking bad news, were identified and solutions explored.
Dr Nahla Kaaky, Assistant Professor of Gynaecology, Obstetrics and Public Health explained, “I have attended many workshops but the benefit from this workshop is the interactive nature. We participate and share feedback, do role-plays and discuss together so we will remember everything and change our consulting practice because of it.”. Dr Nazeeh Bahumaid, Associate Professor and Head of the Medical Department agreed, “The two things that I have learnt is that this type of workshop with sharing ideas with participants and the teacher is more beneficial than lectures. The topics are very important and the clinicians get benefit from them, in daily work it will be very helpful.”
Dr Ali Hatroom, Assistant Professor of Urology commented, “I have learnt how to gain a patient's respect and trust in my skills and accept my diagnosis, rather than the patient going to see another doctor. There is a saying, “You have two ears and one mouth” and this has really entered my heart, I hope to listen more to patients.”.
Following this very successful workshop, it is hoped that the academic staff who have been trained together with Dr Katherine Miles, Communication Skills Trainer and Project Facilitator, will offer future workshops to train the rest of the academic staff in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.
Dr Iman Ali Ba-Saddik, Assistant Professor, Paediatrics, advised, “We need qualified doctors and we want to give refreshment courses to train the trainers and teach all the staff members. We need the will, but “where there is the will, there is a way”.”.
Dr Ali Ahmed Ali, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, explained his vision for the future, “We want the Faculty of Medicine at Aden University, with the support of organisations such as the WHO and British Council, to develop an Education Centre for Communication Skills in Aden to provide training, expertise and resources in this subject for the whole of Yemen. We want to introduce communication skills teaching as part of our undergraduate curriculum to teach the medical students the best way to communicate with patients.”
A team will be formed of participants from this first workshop to plan the introduction of communication skills teaching to the undergraduate medical students. Small groups of medical students will receive 3 sessions of teaching over the academic year, giving opportunity for active participation and self-directed learning, methods which proved most beneficial during the workshop. There will also be the opportunity in February 2011, for four Yemeni doctors to visit Cambridge University and East Anglia University, UK, to observe communication skills teaching to British undergraduate medical students and to receive further training themselves.
Our dream for the future is that doctors and patients will be able to communicate well with each other, leading to correct diagnoses and treatments and as a result the health of the nation of Yemen will improve.