Teaching brief motivational interviewing to Year three medical students

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In 2005, the authors developed and tested a curriculum to teach Year 3 Yale University medical students a behaviour change counselling approach called ‘brief motivational interviewing’ (BMI). Brief motivational interviewing is a patient-centred approach designed to promote changes in patient behaviour within the time constraints imposed by a busy medical practice.


Standardised patients/instructors delivered the curriculum within a single 2-hour training episode using a teaching acronym called ‘CHANGE’ to promote the students' learning. The authors used a pretest, post-test and 4-week follow-up design to assess students' BMI skills (as measured by the Helpful Response Questionnaire), knowledge and attitudes toward the approach.


Students successfully increased their use of BMI-consistent behaviours, primarily by increasing the frequency and depth of their reflections and by reducing the frequency with which they incorporated communication roadblocks and closed questions into their responses (all P-values ≤ 0.05). Students also showed increases in BMI knowledge, interest in the approach, confidence in their ability to use BMI, and commitment to incorporating BMI skills into their future medical practice (all P-values ≤ 0.05).


The findings suggest that Year 3 medical students can learn basic BMI skills and knowledge and develop positive attitudes toward the approach within a relatively short period of time. The authors discuss the study's limitations and future directions for teaching students BMI.

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