Visual Intelligence Education as a Tool for Enhancing Medical Students' Self-Perception of Communication Skills

Author Department

Internal Medicine; Pediatrics

Document Type

Article, Peer-reviewed

Publication Date



Objective: Visual arts-based exposure and training are effective tools to enhance medical education. The visual arts can increase emotional intelligence and critical thinking skills. This study, conducted at Georgetown University School of Medicine (GUSoM) and the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington, DC, was designed to measure the effect of a visual arts elective course on medical students' self-perception of their communication skills.

Methods: This 6-week course involved lessons at the NGA and GUSoM for16 second-year medical students. The intervention students were age and gender-matched to14 second-year medical student control participants who took different elective courses. Prior to and following the intervention, the participants completed the Communication Skills Attitude Scale (CSAS). Statistical analysis was performed with either the 2-sided t-test or 2-sided Wilcoxon rank-sum test.

Results: There were no statistically significant differences in the presurvey scores between the groups. However, there were 6 CSAS questions in the postsurveys that had statistically significant differences between the 2 groups. Within each group, there were also numerous statistically significant differences between their presurvey and postsurvey responses, with positive changes occurring in the intervention group (IG) and primarily negative changes occurring in the control group (CG). The NGA course improved the self-perception of communication skills, with students reporting stronger views on the importance of communication skills in teamwork and patient rapport. The CG, on the other hand, did not have as many improved perceptions of communication skills and had stronger opinions regarding not needing the ability to communicate well to be a good physician.

Conclusion: This study indicates that medical student communication skills can benefit from exposure to visual arts activities and experiences. Future physicians must become effective communicators, and this study paves the way for research investigating the relationship between visual arts education and the development of a physician's communication skills.

Keywords: Medical curriculum; communication skills; visual arts.