Comparison of Communications Styles Amongst Students in Allied Health Professions Programs: How Do Our Students Communicate with Other Healthcare Providers?

Amber Virya King Buhler, Amy E Coplen, Shawn Davis, Bobby Nijjar


Background: Optimal patient outcomes require communication between providers in multiple professions to initiate referrals, communicate patient treatment, and coordinate care. While there is a clear need for increased understanding of the terminology, skills, and scopes of practice of professional colleagues, these tools are of limited effectiveness if there is poor interpersonal communication between team members. Multiple bodies for Interprofessional Practice and Education (IPP/IPE) identify communication skills as an integral part of education. In fact, the third competency domain set down by the Interprofessional Education Collaborative, Interprofessional Communication, states that professionals should, “Recognize how one’s own uniqueness, including experience level, expertise, culture, power, and hierarchy within the healthcare team, contributes to effective communication, conflict resolution, and positive interprofessional working relationships” [1].

Methods and Findings: As part of a required interprofessional competence course, first-year students in ten health professions programs completed the Personal Coaching Style Inventory (PSCI) to self-identify personal communication styles. A series of one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) analyses followed by Tukey post-hoc analyses were performed in order to identify significant differences in PSCI component scores between programs. Within groups, students discussed personal and cohort-wide findings as they impact teamwork. The majority of students identified with the Mediator style. Differences in style were also found in relation to profession, gender, and race. The activity prompted discussion of varied roles in team dynamics, and how differences in style could affect interprofessional teamwork.

Conclusions: Self-awareness of personal communication styles as well as predominant styles of other health professions may enhance interprofessional communication\skills. The skill with which students approach their team roles in heterogeneous groups following graduation has the potential to increase team functionality and patient outcomes.


Communication, Interprofessional Education, Team Dynamics

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