Effective communication is widely regarded as a crucial component of patient care that can determine patient satisfaction, compliance and recovery. The plethora of communication skills training programmes available to health professionals is also a testament to the importance of this element of care. However a review of studies evaluating the effectiveness of such training programmes concluded that little behavioural change in health professionals' communication skills was evident. This paper reports the findings of a programme offered to cancer/palliative care nurses (n=108) via eight condensed three-day workshops at various UK venues. Behavioural change was assessed through evaluation of audiotaped nursing assessments made pre- and six weeks post-course, scored along nine previously identified key communication areas. Mean overall scores rose by 6 points ( p<0.001) to 20 (out of 27) with statistically significant improvements on eight of the nine individual areas. Improvements in subjective levels of confidence in the areas of communication found difficult pre-course were observed immediately post-course ( p<0.001) and were still evident six weeks later. Similar improvements immediately post-course for teaching communication skills to colleagues ( p<0.001) were further improved six weeks post-course for seven of the eight areas assessed. These results suggest that three-day training courses can lead to clinically relevant behavioural change and improvements in perceived confidence in communication and dissemination of skills.
Copyright 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.