Attachment styles and clinical communication performance in trainee doctors

Ian Fletcher, Rachel McCallum, Sarah Peters

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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    Objective: To investigate the relationship between trainee doctors’ attachment style and their performance in qualifying clinical and communication skills assessments.
    Methods: Participants were 190 undergraduate medical students whose performance was assessed by examiners across two areas (communication and clinical skills) during their qualifying Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE). Simulated patients also rated communication skills. Participants’ attachment style was rated across two dimensions, avoidance and anxiety, with the Relationship Questionnaire (RQ).
    Results: Lower levels of attachment avoidance and anxiety were significant predictors of higher performance in both communication and clinical skills.
    Conclusion: Trainee doctors’ attachment styles are associated with patient communication and clinical performance. Further research is needed to investigate the impact of attachment on consultations between doctors and patients within clinical settings.
    Practice implication: Attachment theory can inform our understanding why, for some student doctors, interacting with patients may be particularly challenging and require additional support by medical educators.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalPatient education and counseling
    Issue number11
    Early online date28 May 2016
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016


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