Communication as a core competency : factors influencing health science students' attitudes toward developing communication as a core graduate competency.
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Communication is increasingly being recognized both nationally and internationally as a core graduate competency in the training of health professionals (HP). Initiated by the Canadian Medical Association as the now well-known CanMEDS; graduate competency frameworks represent a defining trend in medical training. This study concentrates on communication as a core competency. The aim of the study was to investigate factors influencing health science students’ (HSS) attitudes toward communication skills training (CST). Objectives of the study were to investigate the influence of 1) demographic factors of level of training, language and gender, 2) perceptions about training, 3) levels of social anxiety and 4) cultural orientation on HSS attitudes toward CST. Students’ from eight different health professional training programmes within the College of Health Sciences (CHS) at a South African university were surveyed using the Communication Skills Attitude Scale (CSAS); Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale (LSAS) and the Individualism-Collectivism scale (INDCOL). Qualitative questions aimed at understanding students’ subjective views on learning communication were included in the questionnaire. Quantitative findings indicated that formal training, language and gender were each predictive of negative attitudes toward CST. Social anxiety was found to be associated to but not predictive of negative attitudes toward CST. Cultural orientation was found to be associated to and predictive of both positive and negative attitudes toward CST. Qualitative findings indicated that while students’ were able to identify the importance of learning communication, they could not clearly specify what training in communication entailed. The factors influencing HSS attitudes toward CST were understood according to Social Representations Theory (SRT) which explains how CST is framed according to students’ cultural and normative criteria until they emerge with either positive or negative positions towards it. The findings of this study have implications for the teaching and learning of communication, for curriculum review and development, and for furthering research in the area of communication skills among HP.