Improving Communication Skills: A Course for Academic Medical Center Surgery Residents and Faculty

Steven E. Raper, Meera Gupta, Olugbenga Okusanya, Jon B. Morris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Objective To improve physician/patient communication and familiarize surgeons with contemporary skills for and metrics assessing communication, courses were developed to provide academic general surgery residents and faculty with a toolkit of information, behaviors, and specific techniques. If academic faculty are expected to mentor residents in communication and residents are expected to learn good communication skills, then both should have the necessary education to accomplish such a goal. Design Didactic lectures introduced current concepts of physician-patient communication including information on better patient care, fewer malpractice suits, and the move toward transparency of communication metrics. Next, course participants viewed and critiqued "Surgi-Drama" videos, with actors simulating "before" and "after" physician-patient communication scenarios. Finally, participants were provided with a "toolkit" of techniques for improving physician-patient communication including "2-3-4" - a semiscripted short communication tool residents and other physicians can use in patient encounters - and a number of other acronymic approaches. Results Each participant was asked to complete an anonymous evaluation to assess course content satisfaction. Overall, 86% of residents participated (68/79), with a 52% response rate (35/68) for the evaluation tool. Overall, 88% of faculty participated (84/96), with an 84% response rate (71/84). Residents voiced satisfaction with all domains. For faculty, satisfaction was quantitatively confirmed (Likert score 4 or 5) in 4 of 7 domains, with the highest satisfaction in "communication of goals" and "understanding of the HCAHPS metric." The percentage of "top box" Doctor Communication Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores and national percentile ranking showed a sustained increase more than 1 and 2 years from the dates of the courses. Conclusions The assessment of communication skills is increasing in importance in the practice of surgery. A course in communication, as developed here, quantitatively confirms the effectiveness of this approach to teaching communication skills as well as identifying areas for improvement. Such a course was part of a plan to increase the percentage of "top box" HCAHPS scores and percentile rankings. Faculty can impart the skills gained from such a course to residents attempting to successfully navigate the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) Milestones and future careers as practicing surgeons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e202-e211
JournalJournal of Surgical Education
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Association of Program Directors in Surgery.


  • Key Words ACGME milestones
  • physician-patient communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Education


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