» Talk to them » : Teaching communication skills to students of Traditional Chinese Medicine
Objective: To explore students’ perceptions of the efficacy and value of teaching communication skills in a health professional course for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Methods: Individual surveys were used to evaluate students’ self-assessment of their communication skills pre and post a communication subject in a four-year degree course in a Bachelor of Health Science in TCM at a large metropolitan university in Australia. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected. Results: Findings indicate that students recognise the need for good communication skills training as part of their professional training and self-reported that their communication skills improved following a semester of study of a communication subject. Conclusions: One of the primary components driving increasing demand for complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), which includes TCM, is that consumers place a high value on effective communication and quality engagement with their CAM provider. Communication skills are often seen as the cornerstone of good health care practice, patient recovery and practitioner job satisfaction. Implementing a focused communication skills component in health professional educational programs, including those for TCM, is therefore essential. Further research is needed to explore the retention of these skills throughout health professionals’ degree programs and after graduation and clinical experience, to evaluate the effectiveness and sustainability of personal communication skills education. Practice implications: Communication skills training should be incorporated into health care profession curricula, early in the program and integrated with clinical exposure.