Introduction: The present study analyzes the evaluation of communication skills by standardized patients (SPs) and medical evaluators (Es) in an OSCE setting.
Methods: The OSCE involved 189 sixth-year medical students, as well as 34 SPs and 63 Es. Communications skills were evaluated in 8 stations, simultaneously by SPs and Es. The SPs were actors who had been trained in the clinical case and who acted in accordance with a standardized script in a simulated clinical situation. The evaluators, also standardized, were Resident Doctors or staff Doctors from the Hospital Services involved.
Results: The global scores awarded to students for communication skills were very similar in both groups, although the score awarded by Es was significantly higher, and a direct relationship was also observed between the mean scores awarded by both groups. Evaluators awarded significantly higher scores than SPs in 7 out of the 10 items on the checklist. Female medical students also scored significantly higher than their male counterparts in many items, including external appearance, listening, cordiality, optimism, interest, expression and empathy.
Discussion: Our data indicate that SPs and Es evaluated communication skills in a similar manner in an OSCE setting, a finding which suggests that health-related professionals can be used as an alternative to SPs, thus helping to lower economic costs. Our study also confirms a gender difference (in favor of women) in the evaluation of communications skills by both groups.