The essence of cancer care: the impact of training on nurses' ability to communicate effectively

Authors

  • Susie M. Wilkinson PhD MSc DipAdv Nurs RGN RM RMT RCNT,

    1. Head of Palliative Care Research/Senior Lecturer in Palliative Care, Marie Curie Palliative Care Research and Development Unit, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, Royal Free and UCL Medical School, London, UK
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  • Maureen Gambles BSc,

    1. Research Assistant, Marie Curie Palliative Care Research and Development Unit, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, Royal Free and UCL Medical School, London, UK
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  • Anita Roberts BSc MSc DipHE RGN RSCN ILTM

    1. Senior Lecturer, Marie Curie Centre Liverpool, Speke Road, Liverpool, UK
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Susie Wilkinson,
Marie Curie Palliative Care Research and  Development Unit,
Department of Psychiatry and  Behavioural Sciences,
Royal Free and UCL Medical School,
London NW3 2PF,
UK.
E-mail: swilkinson@rfc.ucl.ac.uk

Abstract

Background.  The importance of effective communication between health professionals and patients with cancer is widely recognized. Training programmes aimed at improving key communication skills are becoming increasingly available.

Purpose.  To evaluate a communication skills programme delivered to 308 cancer nurses as part of degree/diploma courses. Based on previous work, it was hypothesized that a statistically significant improvement between pre- and postintervention scores would be observed.

Methods.  Audiotaped nursing assessments with patients were undertaken before and after the course. These were evaluated according to coverage of nine previously identified key areas of communication.

Results.  Mean postcourse scores rose by 5·9 points ( P  < 0·001) to 16·3 (out of a possible 27). All nine individual areas of the assessment showed statistically significant improvements postintervention ( P  < 0·001). The areas showing most improvement were those with a high emotional content.

Conclusions.  This study has demonstrated that an integrated approach to communication skills training has the potential to improve nurses' skills, particularly in emotionally laden areas across the spectrum of roles in cancer care.

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