Smoking history-taking skills: A simple guide to teach medical students

Brian Boehlecke, Ami D. Sperber, Vicki Kowlowitz, Megan Becker, Alfonso Contreras, William C. McGaghie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Many doctors rate themselves as ineffective smoking cessation counsellors. It is logical to initiate training efforts with medical students. We incorporated smoking history-taking in the physical diagnosis course at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill using a simple method to teach smoking history-taking skills and to assess its effectiveness as an educational intervention. The principal intervention was the distribution of a one-sheet Smoking-History Taking and Counseling Guide, adapted from the American Lung Association's Freedom From Smoking for You and Your Family self-help manual. The second intervention was a single prompt for 50% of the course preceptors. Students' smoking history-taking skills were evaluated in the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) at the end of the course. Students who received the guide did significantly better on the OSCE, even after controlling for having discussed taking a smoking history with their preceptors. A simple guide combined with a one-time prompting of preceptors has a positive effect on the acquisition of smoking history-taking skills by the medical students. This strategy may also be useful for teaching and evaluating smoking-cessation counselling skills, for which good smoking history-taking is a necessary basis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-289
Number of pages7
JournalMedical Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1996


  • Clinical competence
  • Counselling
  • Education, medical, undergraduate
  • Medical history taking
  • North Carolina
  • Smoking cessation
  • Teaching/methods


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