Medical Students Learning Communication Skills in a Second Language : Empathy and expectations

Muhammad J. Hashim, Stella Major, Deen M. Mirza, Engela A. M. Prinsloo, Ossama Osman, Leena Amiri, Michelle McLean


Objectives: Communications skills (CS) training for medical interviewing is increasingly being conducted in English at medical schools worldwide. In this study, we sought to identify whether Arabic-speaking medical students experienced difficulty with the different components of the CS training that were conducted in English. Methods: Individual third-year preclinical medical students (N = 45) were videotaped while interviewing simulated patients. Each student assessed his/her performance on a 13-item (5-point scale) assessment form, which was also completed by the tutor and other students in the group. Results: Of the 13 components of their CS training, tutors awarded the lowest marks for students’ abilities to express empathy, ask about patients’ feelings, use transition statements, ask about functional impact, and elicit patients’ expectations (P <0.001). Conclusion: The expression of empathy and the ability to elicit patients’ feelings and expectations are difficult to develop in medical students learning CS in a second language.


Communication; Medical history taking; Language; Medical students; Patient-centered care; United Arab Emirates.

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Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University, PO Box 35, Postal Code 123, Al-Khod, Muscat, Oman

ISSN (Print edition): 2075-051X ISSN (Internet edition): 2075-0528

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