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Swiss Cancer League communication skills training programme for oncology nurses: an evaluation


W. Langewitz: e-mail:


langewitz w., heydrich l., nübling m., szirt l., weber h. & grossman p. (2010) Swiss Cancer League communication skills training programme for oncology nurses: an evaluation. Journal of Advanced Nursing66(10), 2266–2277.


Aim.  This paper is a report of an evaluation of the effectiveness of a communication skills training programme for oncology nurses.

Background.  Clinical care for patients with cancer is increasingly being divided between nurses and physicians, with nurses being responsible for the continuity of patient care, and oncologists choosing and explaining the basics of anti-cancer therapy. Therefore, oncology nurses will profit from evidence-based communication skills training to allow them to perform in a professional way.

Methods.  Between 2003 and 2006 pre- and post-intervention videos of interviews with simulated patients were compared using the Roter Interaction Analysis System. Patient centeredness was assessed by counting segments of appropriate mutual responding to cues and by calculating length of uninterrupted patient speech.

Findings.  Appropriate empathic (1·6% vs. 3·2%), reassuring statements (2·3% vs. 3·4%), questions concerning psychosocial information (2·8% vs. 4·0%) increased statistically significantly; utterances containing medical information decreased on the part of nurses (17·8% vs. 13·3%) and patients (8·1% vs. 6·7%); and patients provided more psychosocial information (3·3% vs. 5·7%). The level of congruence and empathic responses to patients’ emotional cues increased statistically significantly, as did the length of uninterrupted speech (3·7–4·3 utterances; all P < 0·05).

Conclusion.  The communication skills training of the Swiss Cancer League could be used as a model to achieve substantial improvements in patient-centred communication. Sequence analysis of utterances from patient-provider interaction should be used to assess the amount of patient-centred talk.