Objectives: To examine how communication skills training might be integrated into everyday clinical practice in a manner that is acceptable to clinicians.
Design: General practitioners from 3 group practices agreed to take part, in turn, in a study of how to manage difficult consultations about antibiotic prescribing for acute respiratory infections. This provided the opportunity to conduct communication skills training in which lessons learned from one practice were taken into the next.
Setting: United Kingdom general practices.
Subjects: Three groups of general practitioners.
Findings: Difficulties with the acceptability of a traditional off-site workshop approach, using role play as the main teaching method, led to the development of a new training method (context-bound training), which proved to be practical and acceptable to experienced clinicians. The main features of the method were the delivery of training in the clinicians' place of work, and the transformation of their reported difficult cases into scenarios which they then encountered with a standardized simulated patient before and after brief seminars. Everyday clinical experience was kept in the foreground and 'communication skills' in the background.
Conclusions: The method is acceptable to clinicians and adaptable to a range of clinical situations. It offers potential for improving the communication skills of clinicians both in hospital and primary care settings.