The priorities, challenges, and scope of clinical communication teaching perceived by clinicians from different disciplines : a Hong Kong case study

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Original languageEnglish
Article number158
Journal / PublicationBMC Primary Care
Online published22 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022



Background: In the absence of a well-rounded syllabus that emphasises both interpersonal and medical dimensions in clinical communication, medical students in the early stages of their career may find it challenging to effectively communicate with patients, especially when dealing with perceived priorities and challenges across different disciplines.
Methods: To explore the priorities, challenges, and scope of clinical communication teaching as perceived by clinicians from different clinical disciplines, we recruited nine medical educators, all experienced frontline clinicians, from eight disciplines across seven hospitals and two medical schools in Hong Kong. They were interviewed on their clinical communication teaching in the Hong Kong context, specifically its priorities, challenges, and scope. We then performed interpretative phenomenological analysis of the interview data.
Results: The interview data revealed five themes related to the priorities, challenges, and scope of clinical communication teaching across a wide range of disciplines in the Hong Kong context, namely (1) empathising with patients; (2) using technology to teach both the medical and interpersonal dimensions of clinical communication; (3) shared decision-making with patients and their families: the influence of Chinese collectivism and cultural attitudes towards death; (4) interdisciplinary communication between medical departments; and (5) the role of language in clinician–patient communication.
Conclusions: Coming from different clinical disciplines, the clinicians in this study approached the complex nature of clinical communication teaching in the Hong Kong context differently. The findings illustrate the need to teach clinical communication both specifically for a discipline as well as generically. This is particularly important in the intensive care unit, where clinicians from different departments frequently cooperate. This study also highlights how communication strategies, non-verbal social cues, and the understanding of clinical communication in the Hong Kong Chinese context operate differently from those in the West, because of differences in sociocultural factors such as family dynamics and hierarchical social structures. We recommend a dynamic teaching approach that uses role-playing tasks, scenario-based exercises, and similar activities to help medical students establish well-rounded clinical communication skills in preparation for their future clinical practice.

Research Area(s)

  • Clinical communication, Multidisciplinarity, Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA), Medical educators, Hospital staff, Perceptions, Teaching

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