Evaluating the referred students’ coaching programme through student surveys

A protocol for an evaluation of supporting healthcare students with language, communication and professional development


  • Katharine Weetman University of Birmingham; University of Warwick
  • Connie Wiskin University of Birmingham
  • John Skelton University of Birmingham
  • Katharine Heathcock University of Birmingham




communication, medical education, remediation, professional identity, struggling, student support


Background: Students completing a healthcare degree can experience difficulties, both academic and non-academic. Early intervention for struggling students may present an opportunity for remediation. Students may be coached in academic performance, clinical communication, values-based learning and development of professional identity.

The referred students’ coaching programme at the University of Birmingham is a unique offering, encompassing eight different healthcare programmes. Referrals can be triggered by academic performance and ‘concern forms’ by stakeholders. Concerns by referrers include exam failure, performance anxiety, lack of confidence, poor team and/or patient/public communication or inadequate self-presentation as well as issues with attitudes/values, study methods, organisation, writing, language, motivation and conduct. Each student referred to the programme receives a bespoke coaching service. Sessions may include role play, narrative reflection, review and revision of academic work, structured feedback and signposting of resources.

Methods and analysis: A qualitative evaluation is carried out of students referred to the Interactive Studies Unit at the University of Birmingham for coaching support with language, communication and professional development. This evaluation explores the experiences of referred students via qualitative surveys. The results are examined using thematic analysis and corpus linguistics. There is a minimum target of 15 participants.

Dissemination: The findings will be published and shared internally for training and internal process improvement purposes.

Author Biographies

  • Katharine Weetman, University of Birmingham; University of Warwick

    Katharine Weetman received her PhD in Health Sciences from the University of Warwick and is currently an Assistant Professor in clinical communication at the Institute of Clinical Sciences, University of Birmingham. Her research interests include healthcare communication, medical education and realist methods.

  • Connie Wiskin, University of Birmingham

    Connie Wiskin received her PhD in the validity and consistency of (human) simulation scoring in high-stakes OSCE assessments from the University of Birmingham in 2007. She is Director of the Interactive Studies Unit, leading on Clinical Communication. Her research interests include summative assessment, international elective risk assessment, medical education evaluation and student support. She has published widely over 30 years.

  • John Skelton, University of Birmingham

    John Skelton graduated in Literature and in Linguistics. He has held academic posts in Singapore, at Aston University, at the University of Surrey and at the University of Birmingham, he was Professor (now Emeritus Professor) of Clinical Communication, and Lead for Education Quality for healthcare disciplines. He is also President of the European Association of Language Teachers in Health. He has published widely in leading journals in healthcare, medical humanities and language, and holds an honorary fellowship in the Royal College of General Practitioners.

  • Katharine Heathcock, University of Birmingham

    Katharine Heathcock (FHEA) holds a degree from Manchester University in Community Theatre Arts (1991) and is currently a Lecturer in Clinical Communication at Birmingham Medical School (Institute of Clinical Sciences, University of Birmingham). She is the co-lead for the ICS Student Referral Programme.


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How to Cite

Weetman, K., Wiskin, C., Skelton, J., & Heathcock, K. (2024). Evaluating the referred students’ coaching programme through student surveys: A protocol for an evaluation of supporting healthcare students with language, communication and professional development. Communication and Medicine, 19(2), 152-161. https://doi.org/10.1558/cam.24819