Cost-effective communication skills training for state hospital employees

Psychiatr Serv. 1995 Aug;46(8):819-22. doi: 10.1176/ps.46.8.819.


Objective: This study evaluated the cost-benefits of a staff communications training program designed to improve patient management skills and relieve staff stress.

Methods: The interpersonal communications program, based on the Carkhuff model, was specially designed for mental health settings. The training program focused on developing accurate empathy by teaching staff members to use appropriate cognitive and emotional components of interpersonal communication. Staff on a short-stay adult inpatient recidivist unit received the training, while those on a matched unit served as a quasi-control group. Data from routine reports from six months before and six months after training were analyzed. The main cost-benefit variables of interest were improved staff retention and patient outcomes.

Results and conclusions: The trained unit had less staff turnover, and staff members on that unit used less sick and annual leave. Fewer patients' rights complaints were filed, and fewer assaults on staff were reported. The cost-benefit analysis revealed substantial savings for the trained unit and increased expenditures for the control unit. The results suggested that training in empathic communication skills for direct care staff is a promising proactive, cost-effective approach to coping with staff stress and turnover and may also improve patient outcomes.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Burnout, Professional / prevention & control
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology
  • Communication*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Empathy
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Psychiatric
  • Hospitals, State
  • Humans
  • Inservice Training / economics*
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Care Team* / economics
  • Patient Readmission
  • Personality Inventory
  • Personnel Turnover / economics
  • Professional-Patient Relations*