Where Practice Really Does Make Perfect

Written by Gabia Neverauskaitė, Educational Psychologist | Mock-OSCE.com

A universally accepted phrase is “practice makes perfect” as it is the foundation of skill improvement. This is no different when referring to clinical communication skills. It is common for communication skills to decline throughout medical study or even during career progression. However, it is a vital part of becoming an all round, proficient physician. Not only does it decrease the length of patient visits, but it also leads to more accurate diagnoses, prevents unnecessary testing, increases patient satisfaction and trust, and reduces malpractice lawsuits.1 Therefore, it is important not to neglect the practice of clinical communication skills. 

Although it may seem that our communication skills are effective due to our daily interactions, without appropriate attention to specific aspects of communication; these skills deteriorate without enough practice.2 Some of these specifics include self-awareness, sensitivity to the needs of others, and capacity for critical self-reflection among many other things.1 One of the most common ways to assess clinical communication skills is through Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs). During these assessments, candidates undergo a full consultation process, whereby they interact with simulated patients to reach a diagnosis or mutual conclusion. Although these interactions are not authentic due to their roleplaying nature, they give a good indication of a candidate’s communication skill level. Understandably, OSCEs can be stress inducing as they are most often high stakes examinations. This is exactly why mock OSCEs were introduced. A recent paper has addressed the importance of OSCE practice using virtual mock assessments. It was found that year 5 medical students felt unprepared for their OSCEs despite having face-to-face mock OSCE practice.3 The addition of virtual mock OSCE practice significantly increased preparedness levels, suggesting that it is an appropriate practice tool for clinical communication skills.

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