A Brief Communication Curriculum Improves Resident and Nurse Communication Skills and Patient Satisfaction

J Gen Intern Med. 2019 Jul;34(7):1167-1173. doi: 10.1007/s11606-019-04951-6.


Background: Despite the ever-expanding role that the patient experience plays in healthcare, effective strategies proven to increase patient satisfaction ratings remain scarce. At the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, we identified patient-doctor and patient-nurse communication as an area for intervention to improve suboptimal patient satisfaction among medicine inpatients. We posited that the likely reasons for underperformance in this area were a lack of adequate training in bedside communication skills.

Design: We developed and evaluated a curriculum for medicine residents and nurses focused on clear communication at the bedside. A total of 76 internal medicine residents and 85 medical service nurses participated in 2016. The curriculum utilized didactics, video demonstrations, and role play, and was evaluated using pre- and post-surveys of participants' health literacy knowledge, attitudes, and confidence. Communication skills were evaluated using pre- and post-direct observation at the bedside with a communication skills checklist. Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores were compared 3 months before and after the curriculum to assess changes in patient satisfaction.

Key results: Knowledge and attitudes improved significantly for both residents and nurses. Residents' and nurses' observed clinical communication skills improved significantly in most domains, and there was moderate increase in communication-specific HCAHPS scores.

Conclusion: A small investment of curricular time devoted to clear communication skills improved residents' and medical nurses' knowledge, attitudes, skills, and communication-specific HCAHPS scores. This curriculum, focused on improving bedside communication skills, could be implemented in a variety of settings to improve patient satisfaction and patient experience.

Keywords: communication skills; health literacy; medical education; medical education–curriculum development/evaluation; patient satisfaction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Communication*
  • Curriculum / standards*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / methods
  • Internship and Residency / standards*
  • Male
  • Nurses / psychology
  • Nurses / standards*
  • Patient Care Team / standards
  • Patient Satisfaction*