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How we communicate dramatically impacts the kinds of relationships we can build with patients and their families. These relationships in turn, influence information-sharing, diagnostic accuracy, compliance with plans of care and care coordination. As a result, communication is our most powerful therapeutic tool and the one we will use most frequently in our professional lives.

The model of communication used in our workshops is based on the Calgary-Cambridge Guide. We chose this model because it provides diverse and specific communication skills aimed to structure clinical encounters effectively and efficiently while facilitating relationship centered care. The Calgary Cambridge skill base is also useful outside the interpersonal clinical encounter and is easily transferable to peer and collegial relationships, as well as interprofessional clinical teams. It is also highly adaptable to difficult encounters featuring emotions, multiple parties, and complex conditions while allowing the healthcare professional to adopt role flexibility as the clinical situation evolves. Our goal in using this model is to guide students in their own customized, relationship centered communication and care style.

In the first year of the FDC, we lay the foundation for communicating with patients in an interactive curriculum that includes two exercises in information gathering and relationship building skills using small group coaching sessions and a digital recording review session of standardized patient encounters. In Phase 2 of the communication curriculum, we focus on communication skills related to explaining and planning care for patients, including how to collaborate with patients in modifying behaviors, manage difficult encounters, write up a formal H & P and perform oral presentations. Students are encouraged to construct skill based learning objectives for their communication sessions and to practice these skills in their preceptor experiences. We also work closely with the Center for Advancing Professional Excellence (CAPE) and develop specific standardized patient (simulated patient) cases to address different clinical encounters and the requisite combination of communication skills.