The way forward with dental student communication at the University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
Background. Dental students are extensively trained to provide dental treatment to their patients during the undergraduate programme. However, no or little time is spent on the training of basic communication skills. Embedding a communication course in the curriculum would require support of the teaching staff and clinical teachers.
Objective. To explore the perceptions of the clinical teachers with regard to the teaching and learning of dental student communication.
Methods. The study had a two-phase, sequential, exploratory, mixed-methods research design. The first phase explored the lecturers’ perceptions of dental student-patient communication by means of a focus group interview (n=5). Findings were used to develop the questionnaire for the second phase. The survey was distributed to 57 clinical teachers using the online SurveyMonkey system (USA).
Results. Sixty-three percent rated dental student-patient communication as good. All the respondents thought communication skills should be included in the dental curriculum. Of the total, 47% strongly agreed that students wish to continue with their work and not attend to communication. Of the clinical teachers, 47% strongly agreed that they need training on how to communicate and assess communication skills. Sixty-eight percent strongly agreed that developing and teaching a communication module should be shared among faculty staff.
Conclusion. Clinical teachers agreed that communication skills training and clinical assessment in the dental curriculum are important. The study raised awareness among faculty members about the importance of communication skills and ensured initial buy-in for the development of such a course.