Purpose of study: Communication programmes have become a part of mainstream education at all levels of dental training. As part of the Behavioural Science Programme as applied to Dentistry UCC, the teaching for understanding framework (TfU) was adopted to teach dental students how to manage challenging patients in clinical practice. The key TfU goals are to understand and identify the types of challenging patients; to understand and develop communication skills, a core component which is empathic concern; and to develop interpersonal and intrapersonal awareness. Method: In order to assess the application of the TfU goals, dental students engage in Objective Structured Clinical Evaluations (OSCEís) to assess their ability to communicate with challenging patients. This requires the student to remain patient- centred and manage the clinical encounter by using a selection of clinical interventions to dissipate the patientís emotional response to the medical or clinical situation. Conclusion & Recommendations: If the interaction is managed effectively the student will address the patientís concerns, acknowledge the patients affective state and refocuse
s the patient on the decision(s) to be made with regard to their dental treatment plan. The value of using the TfU framework is ultimately bridging the gap between the theories learnt in class, and its application in clinical practice.
Key words: Teaching for Understanding; Education; Dentistry; Challenging patients