Communication Skills in Dental Students: New Data Regarding Retention and Generalization of Training Effects

Hillary L. Broder, Malvin Janal, Danielle M. Mitnick, Jasmine Y. Rodriguez, Lacey Sischo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous studies have shown that a communications program using patient instructors (PIs) facilitates data-gathering and interpersonal skills of third-year dental students. The aim of this study was to address the question of whether those skills are retained into the students’ fourth year and generalized from the classroom to the clinic. In the formative training phase, three cohorts of D3 students (N=1,038) at one dental school received instruction regarding effective patient-doctor communication; interviewed three PIs and received PI feedback; and participated in a reflective seminar with a behavioral science instructor. In the follow-up competency phase, fourth-year students performed two new patient interviews in the clinic that were observed and evaluated by clinical dental faculty members trained in communications. Mean scores on a standardized communications rating scale and data-gathering assessment were compared over training and follow-up sessions and between cohorts with a linear mixed model. The analysis showed that the third-year students’ mean communication and data-gathering scores increased with each additional encounter with a PI (p<0.05) and that communication scores were not only maintained but increased during the fourth-year follow-up competency evaluations (p<0.05). Based on changes in the communications curriculum, prior instruction facilitated the students’ clinical communication performance at baseline (p<0.05). This study suggests that the current Clinical Communications program improved students’ data-gathering and interpersonal skills. Those skills were maintained and generalized through completion of the D4 students’ summative competency performance in a clinical setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)940-948
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of dental education
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015


  • communication
  • dental education
  • dentist-patient relations
  • interpersonal skills
  • patient care management
  • patient instructors
  • patient simulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Dentistry


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