Purpose: This paper discusses an innovative multi-disciplinary approach to the development and evaluation of flexible, digital clinical communication learning resources to support students in twelve health disciplines to develop clinical communication skills in preparation for their clinical placements. Methods: A modified Delphi survey was sent to all stakeholders in the Division of Health Sciences to identify the most important communication skills from the list of 61 communication skills identified by Bachmann et al in 2013. Lecturers, clinical educators, clinicians, and students were invited to rate the importance of each skill. Results: A set of digital resources was created for teaching clinical communication to students across all years and disciplines and for use by clinical educators in the Division to prepare students for clinical placement. In addition, an effective methodology for course development, involving broad consultation and multi-disciplinary development teams comprised of clinicians and other educational experts, was developed. The resources were implemented in two disciplines, podiatry and midwifery, and evaluated pre- and post-placement using a qualitative and quantitative method developed with the course coordinators. Conclusions: There are identifiable clinical communication skills which are applicable across numerous health disciplines and as for other learnable skills, teaching can be enhanced by breaking them down into specific, demonstrable elements which students can observe and practice. Using the pedagogy and methods outlined in the paper, students demonstrated increased awareness of the importance of communication in the clinical context, and the capacity to evaluate their performance of those skills.

Author Bio(s)

Nayia Cominos PhD is a researcher, educator, and consultant in communication, literacy, curriculum, and linguistics. She is a Senior Lecturer in Health Professions Education in the College of Medicine and Public Health, Flinders University, in the Master of Clinical Education, and teaching specialist in curricula, assessment, and online educational design.

Kerry Thoirs PhD previous Associate Head of School (Academic) in the School of Health Sciences at the University of South Australia. Kerry has held leadership positions in both the clinical and academic sectors, with experience in curriculum development and an interest in flexible delivery. Her discipline area is Medical Radiations.

Professor Rowena Harper is Director of the Centre for Learning and Teaching at Edith Cowan University. She has held senior teaching and leadership roles in Australian higher education and has worked to foster whole-of-institution approaches to both equity and excellence, including President of the Association for Academic Language and Learning.

Giordana Cross PhD is a Senior Lecturer in Dietetics in UniSA Clinical & Health Sciences at the University of South Australia. She is a practicing clinician and former Program Director, lecturing in Therapeutics, Nutrition and Exercise, and Food Safety Regulation, and is a member of the Dietetic Association of Australia.

Megan Cooper PhD is a registered midwife, researcher, and senior lecturer in Midwifery at Flinders University. She has published extensively on water immersion and midwifery professional practice. She is an active member of the Australian College of Midwives and has been the Policy and Political Coordinator since 2017.


This research contributed to a Master of Health Professional Education study at the University of Notre Dame Australia under the supervision of Professor Chris Hackett PhD and Associate Professor Elina Tor PhD. We would also like to acknowledge Dr Hayley Uden, the course coordinator of Podiatry, Jane Coffee, and Anne Lonie for her work on the resource website.




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