Development and preliminary evaluation of communication skills training program for oncologists based on patient preferences for communicating bad news

Maiko Fujimori, Yuki Shirai, Mariko Asai, Nobuya Akizuki, Noriyuki Katsumata, Kaoru Kubota, Yosuke Uchitomi
Palliative & Supportive Care 2014, 12 (5): 379-86

OBJECTIVE: The purposes of this study were to develop a communication skills training (CST) workshop program based on patient preferences, and to evaluate preliminary feasibility of the CST program on the objective performances of physicians and the subjective ratings of their confidence about the communication with patients at the pre- and post-CST.

METHODS: The CST program was developed, based on the previous surveys on patient preferences (setting up the supporting environment of the interview, making consideration for how to deliver bad news, discussing about additional information, and provision of reassurance and emotional support) and addressing the patient's emotion with empathic responses, and stressing the oncologists' emotional support. The program was participants' centered approach, consisted a didactic lecture, role plays with simulated patients, discussions and an ice-breaking; a total of 2-days. To evaluate feasibility of the newly developed CST program, oncologists who participated it were assessed their communication performances (behaviors and utterances) during simulated consultation at the pre- and post-CST. Participants also rated their confidence communicating with patients at the pre-, post-, and 3-months after CST, burnout at pre and 3 months after CST, and the helpfulness of the program at post-CST.

RESULTS: Sixteen oncologists attended a newly developed CST. A comparison of pre-post measures showed improvement of oncologists' communication performances, especially skills of emotional support and consideration for how to deliver information. Their confidence in communicating bad news was rated higher score at post-CST than at pre-CST and was persisted at 3-months after the CST. Emotional exhaustion scores decreased at 3-months after CST. In addition, oncologists rated high satisfaction with all components of the program.

SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: This pilot study suggests that the newly developed CST program based on patient preferences seemed feasible and potentially effective on improving oncologists' communication behaviors what patients prefer and confidence in communicating with patients.

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