Facilitating Rapport through Real Patient Encounters in Health Care Professional Education

Linda Ross



Establishing rapport is central to any health care professional-patient encounter. Developing a positive relationship with a patient enables the health care practitioner to elicit pertinent information and make informed clinical decisions about their treatment. This consequently leads to greater patient adherence, satisfaction and ultimately outcomes. As interpersonal communication and building patient rapport is integral to patient care it is imperative that the teaching of these skills be included in undergraduate and continuing health care professional education. The objective of this narrative review was to analyse the literature pertaining to health care professionals learning and developing interpersonal communication and rapport building skills through encounters with ‘real patients’.


In April 2013 a search was conducted using the following electronic databases; MEDLINE, PsychINFO, CINAHL and ERIC. The search was limited to articles from peer-reviewed journals, conference papers and abstracts published between 1998 –2013 and written in English. Articles identified were assessed against the inclusion/exclusion criteria.


An initial search located 6549 articles. Following the application of inclusion and exclusion criteria seven articles were included in this review. A synthesis and subsequent examination of the extracted data revealed positive results in regard to incorporating ‘real patients’ into interpersonal communication skills and practitioner-patient relationship teaching and learning. Some studies measured actual improvement in behaviour and skills whilst others offered self-reported data on participant perceptions of their skills


Training interventions involving ‘real patients’ that are designed to foster interpersonal communication, interviewing skills, practitioner-patient relationships and rapport building are achievable and beneficial for student and practicing health care professionals. Any conclusions drawn from this review however must remain preliminary until such time as more high-level research becomes available.


Rapport; undergraduate students; interpersonal communication; real patients; healthcare

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.33151/ajp.10.4.50


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