Communication Skills

Everything You Need to Know

The communication skills station in the orthopaedic ST3 recruitment interview something that can strike fear into most surgeons.  The reality is that this is the stuff you are doing regularly in your day job.

The main themes of communication skills from medical school onwards are:

  • Communicating with juniors
  • Asking for help
  • Breaking Bad news (surgery failed)
  • Gaining consent
  • Assessing capacity

Everything You Need to Do

Well, like everything in life, practice makes perfect.  You need to get out there and do all of the above, you need to practice with friends who are also applying, registrars, your consultants, etc.


Ensure that you suggest that you would take the patient to private place on the ward to have such a consultation such as the visitors room or doctors office.  You would also being a member of nursing staff with you.

Introduce yourself

Its just polite, and respectful.  It will then allow you to check who they are. There has been hype over twitter in the past about this with the #hellomynameis campaign. It matters and you can be sure as heck that it will be on the scoring card.

Gain consent

Having checked that you are talking to the correct person gain their consent to talk to them.  If you are speaking to a relative of a patient then gain the patients consent to talk to them, and check how much they are happy for you to disclose.

Ask them what they know

You should check to see what the person already know or has been told, this will then allow you to be guided by what you are going to discuss.


  1. Listen carefully to the brief for the scenario and repeat it back to the person asking it to ensure that you have heard it correctly! So often people make a hash of communication skills stations as they have not listened to the snippet of information given to them.  If you are told that patient X has had operation Y and has had Z complication, then you do not need to tell the relative that you need to go and examine Mr X and order an x-ray to confirm your suspicions.
  2. Listen to what the patient is saying.  If they are upset that granny is hungry / in pain, offer to ask the nurse to get her some food or analgesia.


Make sure your body language reflects what you are saying. If you are breaking bad news than don’t be smiling and laughing. Lean in to show interest. Hands flat on the knees or in a neutral position, don’t fiddle / pick your nails as you are nervous.

Give information

Tell them what you need to tell them.

Avoid jargon


Avoid any medical words.  If you say that the hip has dislocated then what does that mean?  You need to explain that the hip has come out of joint.  On such a note be careful of what you then say.  For example if you are treating someone with a dislocated hip and say ‘we will take you to theatre and just pop it back in’ this is likely to stir up an angry response. ‘Pop it back in’ no thankyou.  How would you feel it I was to offer to ‘pop you back in’.

Check retention / understanding of information

‘Chunk & Check’, meaning to give information and then check that the other person has understood what you have told them.

Give a plan

You need to be clear as to what you are going to do from here and what you want from the person you are talking to.


Once you are coming to the end of the consultation ask ‘is there anything else I can help you with?’ / ‘Is there anything else you would like to ask?’


Short account of what has been discussed.


Thank the person for their time and let them know that you are available should they wish to talk to you again or have any further questions.






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