Identifying and responding to depression in adult cancer patients: evaluating the efficacy of a pilot communication skills training program for oncology nurses

Richard F Brown, Carma L Bylund, Nancy Kline, Anthony De La Cruz, Jill Solan, Joanne Kelvin, Jennifer Gueguen, Julia Eddington, David Kissane, Steve Passik
Cancer Nursing 2009, 32 (3): E1-7
Depression is a common response among cancer patients to their diagnosis and treatment; however, it goes undetected by healthcare providers in about 50% of cases. Communication skills training has been suggested as means to help nurses detect and respond to patient depression. We developed and pilot tested a communication skills training workshop based around 6 strategies. The training program consisted of 2 half-day experiential workshops that included didactic teaching, exemplary video, and role play. The aim of the study was to evaluate the effectiveness of the communication skills training. Fifteen nurses were recruited from the ambulatory nursing service at (redacted). Standardized patient assessments were used to measure strategy uptake. The presence of each strategy was rated on a 4-point scale from "not attempted" to "successfully attempted." Nurses also completed evaluations of the training program. The nurses attempted 3 of 6 strategies more commonly after training, and a trend to significance was observed in a fourth strategy. The nurses reported more confidence to deal with patient depression and had greater self-efficacy. This short training program demonstrated success in improving nurse communication skills and confidence in dealing with patient depression. A larger trial of the training is planned.

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