Davies, Christopher S. and Lunn, Katherine (2007) A new approach to the assessment of Podiatry students: the patient’s role in the assessment of students’ communication skills. In: Authenticity to Action Conference, 7th - 9th November 2007, Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria, UK. (Unpublished)

A successful bid to support the appointment of a Research Assistant, initially for a 12 month period, was made to develop and implement a scheme whereby patients were recruited to assess students’ communication skills. There was a very high level of support from the patient representatives to become more involved in such an initiative.

Communication skills were chosen as a first subject area as these are considered to be core transferable skills, being essential to clinical practice. Although based in the Division of Podiatry, it was anticipated that more work could be undertaken in the future to roll out this initiative to all courses that provide student involvement with patients or clients in a clinical or community setting.

The central focus of the study was to investigate the effects of the introduction of a new system of formative assessment on students’ perceptions of their communication skills, by recruiting patients to assess the student who provided their treatment on that day. The assessment tool detailed 12 aspects of communication and the patient ‘scored’ the student from 0 (representing very poor skills) to 10 (representing excellence) .The patients then handed the completed tool at the end of the treatment session to the student. This would then form part of their clinical portfolio for reflection consideration.

Preliminary Findings showed that the patients have been willing to participate with only a few refusing for either not having appropriate glasses or having medical problems that affect their upper limbs. The communication visual scale demonstrated a perceived improvement over the ten week period for 86.4% for the final year students. The students that were interviewed all stated that they were comfortable with the patients assessing them and for some it made them feel more confident. Some students were surprised by the marks that the patients gave on some aspects of their communication, particularly maintaining eye contact.

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