Background: The Australasian Chapter of the Palliative Medicine (AChPM) Curriculum Development Group identified communication as a core skill that trainees in palliative medicine need to acquire, and proposed the development of a communication skills workshop that should become a compulsory part of training to achieve accreditation as a palliative medicine specialist in Australia and New Zealand. This paper describes the development and subsequent evaluation of this module.
Methods: A three-day communication workshop was developed in collaboration with expert communication skills facilitators from the United States and Australia. The teaching consists of: (1) brief plenary presentations providing an evidence-based framework for communication and a demonstration of suggested strategies; (2) small group experiential learning providing opportunities to practice communication skills with clinically relevant simulated patients, self-appraisal, constructive feedback, and reflective exercises; and (3) accompanying course-specific written material. Participants completed de-identified questionnaires before, after, and three months following completion of the workshop.
Results: Forty-one participants completed the training in two workshops held in 2008 and 2009. Participants said in their questionnaire responses that the training was useful, would be helpful for their communication with patients, and that they would recommend the training to others. Qualitative feedback was highly positive. Self-assessed confidence in communication skills significantly increased following the workshop (p<.001) and was sustained at three months (p<.001).
Conclusion: The training is highly valued by participants and increases confidence in communication skills. Facilitator training and capacity planning will be critical for the ongoing success of the communication workshop.