Helping health professionals involved in cancer care acquire key interviewing skills--the impact of workshops

Eur J Cancer. 1996 Aug;32A(9):1486-9. doi: 10.1016/0959-8049(96)00059-7.


To assess the impact of workshops on key interviewing skills, 169 health professionals involved in cancer care interviewed a simulated patient immediately before and after the workshops and 6 months later. Each interview was audiotaped, transcribed and rated by trained raters using a newly developed rating system which permits an utterance by utterance analysis. The workshops led to significant increases in the use of three behaviours which promote patient disclosure of key concerns. Namely, open directive questions, questions with a psychological focus and clarification of psychological aspects. However, there was no increase in the use of educated guesses and empathic statements which promote disclosure of key problems and feelings. There were significant reductions in behaviours which inhibit disclosure including the use of questions with a physical focus, utterances clarifying physical aspects and the giving of advice prematurely. These significant gains were still evident 6 months later, but there had been some decline over time. There were also significant improvements in the ability of health professionals to elicit patients key problems. Before the workshop, 75 (44%) participants were able to identify at least 60% of their patients' main problems (a criterion of clinical competence) compared with 119 (70%) at 6-month follow-up, an increase in numbers of 59%. Before training, health professionals used as many behaviours which inhibit disclosure as those that promote it. This was unaffected by their professional discipline, prior training or age. It highlights the need for health professionals involved in cancer care to have training in these communication skills. We believe that more intensive group work in smaller groups which focuses on the feelings and attitudes of participants as well as their interviewing behaviour would lead to an increase in the use of educated guesses and empathy and better exploration of patients' feelings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Communication*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic / methods*
  • Interviews as Topic / standards
  • Medical History Taking
  • Medical Oncology / education*
  • Patient Simulation
  • Professional-Patient Relations*