Perceptions of student paramedic interpersonal communication competence: A cross-sectional study

How to Cite

Ross L, Boyle M, Williams B, Fielder C, Veenstra R. Perceptions of student paramedic interpersonal communication competence: A cross-sectional study. Australasian Journal of Paramedicine [Internet]. 2014Aug.4 [cited 2020Sep.29];11(4). Available from:




Interpersonal communication skills are essential to the healthcare practitioner aiding in high quality, effective and safe clinical practice. Effective communication exerts a positive influence on the patient’s physical and emotional status resulting in better patient outcomes and satisfaction. By identifying strengths and weaknesses, self-assessment of interpersonal communication skills can be used as an intervention tool to inform future curriculum renewal. The objective of this study was to identify paramedic students’ perceptions of their interpersonal communication competence.


Second year paramedic students from Monash University (Victoria) were invited to participate in a survey that asked them to record perceptions of their interpersonal communication skills using the Interpersonal Communication Competence Scale (ICCS). The ICCS is a 30-item unipolar questionnaire using a Likert scale ranging from 1 (almost never) to 5 (almost always). Mean and standard deviations (SD) were used to report results.


Fifty-six second year paramedic students participated in the study. Participants were predominantly aged less than 25 years (85.7%) and male n=36 (64.3%).

Students reported ‘often’ or ‘almost always’ for the items: ‘I put myself in others’ shoes’, n=46 (82%), mean=3.98 (SD 0.59); and, ‘I let others know that I understand what they say’, n=45 (80%), mean=3.96 (SD 0.66). Students reported ‘sometimes’, ‘often’ or ‘almost always’, for the items: ‘I have trouble convincing others to do what I want them to do’, n=55 (98%), mean=3.5 (SD 0.63); and, ‘My mind wanders during conversations’, n=41 (73%), mean=3.05 (SD 0.88).


Preliminary results suggest that student paramedics self-report their interpersonal communication skills highly apart from areas related to assertiveness and listening skills. These results could be indicative of student age, personality or experience level and warrant further research with larger sample sizes.


O'Toole G. Communication: core interpersonal skills for health professionals. Elsevier Australia, 2008.

Ang WC, Swain N, Gale C. Evaluating communication in healthcare: systematic review and analysis of suitable communication scales. Journal of Communication in Healthcare 2013;6(4):216–22.

Rider EA, Keefer CH. Communication skills competencies: definitions and a teaching toolbox. Med Educ 2006;40(7):624–9.

Griffin SJ, Kinmonth A-L, Veltman MW, Gillard S, Grant J, Stewart M. Effect on health-related outcomes of interventions to alter the interaction between patients and practitioners: a systematic review of trials. Ann Fam Med 2004;2(6):595–608.

Sanders MJ. Mosby's Paramedic Textbook. 4th edn. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers, 2011.

Bennett K, Lyons Z. Communication skills in medical education: an integrated approach. Education Research & Perspectives 2011;38(2)45–56.

Zick A, Granieri M, Makoul G. First-year medical students’ assessment of their own communication skills: a video-based, open-ended approach. Patient Educ Couns 2007;68(2):161–6.

Williams B, Onsman A, Brown T. From stretcher-bearer to paramedic: the Australian paramedics' move towards professionalisation. J Emerg Prim Health Care 2009;7(4).

Owen C, Hemmings L, Brown T. Lost in translation: maximizing handover effectiveness between paramedics and receiving staff in the emergency department. Emerg Med Australas 2009;21(2):102–7.

Wong MC, Yee KC, Turner P. A structured evidence-based literature review regarding the effectiveness of improvement interventions in clinical handover. The Group; 2008. Available at:

McCroskey JC, McCroskey LL. Self‐report as an approach to measuring communication competence. Commun Res Rep 1988;5(2):108–13.

Rubin RB, Martin MM, Bruning SS, Powers DE. Test of a self‐efficacy model of interpersonal communication competence. Commun Q 1993;41(2):210–20.

Rubin RB, Martin MM. Development of a measure of interpersonal communication competence. Commun Res Rep 1994;11(1):33–44.

Shue CK, Arnold L. Medical students' interviews with older adults: An examination of their performance. Health Commun 2009;24(2):146–55.

Xie J, Ding S, Wang C, Liu A. An evaluation of nursing students' communication ability during practical clinical training. Nurse Educ Today 2013;33(8):823–7.

Mullan BA, Kothe EJ. Evaluating a nursing communication skills training course: the relationships between self-rated ability, satisfaction, and actual performance. Nurse Educ Pract 2010;10(6):374–8.

Elkind D. Egocentrism in adolescence. Child Dev 1967;38(4):1025–34.

Frankenberger KD. Adolescent egocentrism: a comparison among adolescents and adults. J Adolesc 2000;23(3):343–54.

Hojat M, Gonnella JS, Nasca TJ, Mangione S, Vergare M, Magee M. Physician empathy: definition, components, measurement, and relationship to gender and specialty. Am J Psychiatry 2002;159(9):1563–9.

Williams B, Boyle M, Earl T. Measurement of empathy levels in undergraduate paramedic students. Prehosp Disaster Med 2013;28(02):145–9.

Hojat M, Gonnella JS, Mangione S, et al. Empathy in medical students as related to academic performance, clinical competence and gender. Med Educ 2002;36(6):522–7.

Hojat M, Mangione S, Kane GC, Gonnella JS. Relationships between scores of the Jefferson scale of physician empathy (JSPE) and the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI). Med Teach 2005;27(7):625–8.

Coulehan JL, Platt FW, Egener B, et al. “Let me see if I have this right…”: words that help build empathy. Ann Intern Med 2001;135(3):221–7.

Bikker AP, Mercer SW, Reilly D. A pilot prospective study on the consultation and relational empathy, patient enablement, and health changes over 12 months in patients going to the Glasgow Homoeopathic Hospital. J Altern Complement Med 2005;11(4):591–600.

Kim SS, Kaplowitz S, Johnston MV. The effects of physician empathy on patient satisfaction and compliance. Eval Health Prof 2004;27(3):237–51.

Vermeire E, Hearnshaw H, Van Royen P, Denekens J. Patient adherence to treatment: three decades of research. A comprehensive review. J Clin Pharm Ther 2001;26(5):331–42.

Beckman HB, Markakis KM, Suchman AL, Frankel RM. The doctor-patient relationship and malpractice: lessons from plaintiff depositions. Arch Intern Med 1994;154(12):1365.

Levinson W, Roter DL, Mullooly JP, Dull VT, Frankel RM. Physician-patient communication: the relationship with malpractice claims among primary care physicians and surgeons. JAMA 1997;277(7):553–9.

Ross L. Interpersonal skills education for undergraduate nurses and paramedics. Journal of Paramedic Practice 2012;4(11):655–61.

Gerrish K. Still fumbling along? A comparative study of the newly qualified nurse’s perception of the transition from student to qualified nurse. J Adv Nurs 2000;32(2):473–80.