Responding empathically to patients: Development, implementation, and evaluation of a communication skills training module for oncology nurses

Cassandra Pehrson, Smita C Banerjee, Ruth Manna, Megan Johnson Shen, Stacey Hammonds, Nessa Coyle, Carol A Krueger, Erin Maloney, Talia Zaider, Carma L Bylund
Patient Education and Counseling 2016, 99 (4): 610-616

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this paper is to report on the development, implementation, and evaluation of a Communication Skills Training (CST) module for inpatient oncology nurses on how to respond empathically to patients.

METHODS: 248 nurses from a USA cancer center participated in a CST module on responding empathically to patients. Nurses completed pre- and post-training Standardized Patient Assessments (SPAs), a survey on their confidence in and intent to utilize skills taught, and a six-month post-training survey of self-reported use of skills.

RESULTS: Results indicate that nurses were satisfied with the module, reporting that agreement or strong agreement to 5 out of 6 items assessing satisfaction 96.7%-98.0% of the time. Nurses' self-efficacy in responding empathically significantly increased pre- to post-training. Additionally, nurses showed empathy skill improvement in the post-SPAs. Finally, 88.2% of nurses reported feeling confident in using the skills they learned post-training and reported an increase of 42-63% in the use of specific empathic skills.

CONCLUSIONS: A CST module for nurses in responding empathically to patients showed feasibility, acceptability, and improvement in self-efficacy as well as skill uptake.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: This CST module provides an easily targeted intervention for improving nurse-patient communication and patient-centered care.

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