BACKGROUND: Communication skill training during medical education, once considered a minor subject, is now ranked as a core clinical skill. OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of role play as a method for improving physician-patient communication during the dermatological clerkship. METHODS: Ninety eight senior medical students undergoing dermatological clerkship were included in this study. Initially, the students were briefly lectured on communication skills from a dermatologic professor and two students were randomly allocated for role play. The student in the patient's role was shown the history of the patient with common dermatological problems just before the role play. After the first role play, the patient and physician roles were interchanged and the new student in the patient's role was shown another patient's medical history for the same role play as mentioned above. Two other students were allocated for the third role play with another dermatological problem. A questionnaire survey was used by observing students and the professors to assess the communication skills of the students playing the physician roles in various aspects. After the role plays, the students were allocated to the dermatologic outpatient clinic and with patient consent, they saw real patients as true doctors and the professors evaluated their communication skills using the same questionnaires. RESULTS: As the role plays proceeded, the communication skills of the students were improved. In the outpatient clinic, the students showed better physician-patient communication than ever before. The improvement of communication skills in the outpatient clinic was clearly shown both in the students who had observed the role plays and in those who had performed the physicians' or patients'roles. CONCLUSION: Communication skills in medical students undergoing dermatologic clerkship can be effectively trained, and improved by use of role play.
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