A longitudinal evaluation of a communication skills programme

Wilkinson, S.; Bailey, K.; Aldridge, J.; Roberts, A.
July 1999
Palliative Medicine;1999, Vol. 13 Issue 4, p341
Academic Journal
Communication is an essential component of palliative care, but patients and their families are often dissatisfied with their interactions with health professionals. Communication difficulties are also a recognized stress factor among health professionals. Education and training, however, are said to improve communication skills. A communication skills training programme for 110 nurses has demonstrated statistically significant improvements in the nurses' skills, but no long-term effect was evaluated. This paper presents the results of the long-term follow-up study. Of the 110 nurses contacted, 20% refused to participate, 45% agreed and 35% did not respond; 33 nurses returned usable data. The mean length of time since completing the original study was 2.5 years. Since completion of the original course there was no statistically significant deterioration or improvement in eight of the nine areas of assessment skills evaluated. In the area of psychological assessment there was a statistically significant improvement, and overall the nurses maintained their skills and improved in this area. The results suggest that over time the nurses became more confident in the emotional areas of care as a result of the training. The two key elements of the training were audio-tape recordings and feedback, which raised self-awareness, and experiential workshops covering ways of handling difficult situations. Whether a similar training effect could be achieved by a short 35-day course on communication skills needs addressing, because the integrated training skills course evaluated here is costly. Preliminary evidence suggests that the 35-day course may not be as effective, so the increased costs associated with the integrated training skills course may be wisely spent if it improves the quality of nursepatient interaction as evidence here suggests.


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