Measurement of primary care providers' suicide prevention skills following didactic education

Suicide Life Threat Behav. 2022 Jun;52(3):373-382. doi: 10.1111/sltb.12827. Epub 2022 Jan 17.


Objective: Almost half of individuals who die by suicide have had contact with primary care (PC) services within 1 month of their death. PC providers must be able to assess and manage patients' suicidal ideation, intent, and behaviors. When didactic training is provided to providers, it is assumed that their requisite skills are well developed. The current study assessed observed skills following high-quality online didactics.

Method: Medical residents and nurse practitioner (NP) trainees (n = 127) participated in online didactic training as part of their education program, followed by a standardized patient interaction conducted to assess demonstrated suicide prevention skills (i.e., assessment of risk factors, protective factors, suicidal ideation and behavior, safety planning).

Results: Participants demonstrated only about 50% of the possible total skills in most domains and were least competent in assessing potential risk for suicide. Regression analyses showed that residents were rated significantly higher than NPs on observed skills. Personal experience with suicide was not associated with any observed skills. Baseline knowledge scores were positively associated with some skills while elapsed days since completion of didactics were negatively associated with skills.

Conclusions: Didactics were insufficient for building suicide-specific assessment skills among physicians and nurses in advanced training.

Keywords: observed skills; primary care; training.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Physicians*
  • Primary Health Care
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Suicide Prevention*