New resource to support communication skills development in future doctors

Professor Selma Alliex, Head of Fremantle Campus; Professor Shirley Bowen, Dean of the School of Medicine, Fremantle; Dr Heidi Waldron; and Sr Marie Duffy RSM, Community Leader of Sisters of Mercy in WA and SA.

9 January 2017

Dr Heidi Waldron is using her research to develop learning technologies that equip Notre Dame’s Medicine students with vital communication strategies that they can use in clinical situations to enhance patient-centred care.

Dr Waldron, a Senior Lecturer in The University of Notre Dame Australia’s School of Medicine, Fremantle, received a $6000 grant from The Mary Philippa Brazill Foundation. It will be used to support the development of four videos to teach effective clinical communication skills to the University’s School of Medicine students.

The videos produced as part of the research project will be integrated into the communication-teaching program for more than 100 second-year students enrolled in the Fremantle Campus Medicine program. Regarded as an essential skill for all doctors, Dr Waldron says effective communication skills enable the delivery of quality medical care that is safe and respective of patients’ wishes.

“A very important trend in health professional education is to recognise that graduates must be able to work effectively in clinical teams when caring for patients. Team members possessing the confidence to have difficult conversations is vitally important, particularly for avoiding adverse clinical events,” Dr Waldron said.

“Supporting our medical students to develop the necessary skills and confidence to communicate effectively will have a positive impact on their professional development as doctors and their ability to provide excellent care for patients.”

Real-life scenarios covered as part of the video resources include: end-of-life care, an incorrect diagnosis given to patients and carers, and patients with ongoing and recurring illnesses. The videos will exhibit a near-miss serious scenario where there are multiple opportunities to change the clinical course through effective doctor communication.

“Through these videos we want to achieve two really important things: firstly, to explore the inter-professional dynamics that exist in teams and why this is of benefit to patients; and secondly, to empower students to communicate effectively with patients and adopt a tone that is consistent with their own ethical position,” Dr Waldron said.

“We want students to learn the skills to be able to listen, to say what needs to be said, to the right person and at the right time. It sounds simple, but it’s very powerful.”

Co-researchers for this project are Associate Professor Angela Alessandri, Professor Jane Courtney, Associate Professor Elina Tor, Dr Lama Al Ramahi, Anne Goldstein, Dr Lorna Davin, Mr John Taylor and Kimberley Dever.

The Mary Philippa Brazill Foundation was established in 1993 for the purpose of providing financial support for research and education in ethics with an emphasis on the ethics of health care, and the promotion of these activities in Australian Catholic institutions.


Leigh Dawson: Tel (08) 9433 0569; Mob 0405 441 093;