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Keywords:

  • Adaptation, psychological;
  • attitude of health personnel;
  • *communication;
  • emotions;
  • London;
  • *medical staff hospital;
  • perception;
  • *physician-patient relations;
  • social support

SUMMARY

This study evaluates junior house officers' perceptions of their communication skills with cancer patients; the usefulness of their undergraduate communication skills training; and their sources of emotional support. All 42 junior house officers employed at Guy's and Lewisham Hospitals in August 1994 were interviewed using a study-specific, semi-structured interview. Sixty-seven per cent of junior house officers felt they had adequate communication skills in relation to medical issues, but only 36% felt they had adequate skills in relation to psychological issues. Thirty-one per cent of doctors reported that they never, or nearly never, enquired about the emotional adjustment of dying patients. Lack of time was the most commonly reported reason for avoiding asking about psychological problems (62% of junior house officers), followed by wishing to avoid awkward questions (51%) and inadequacy of skills to deal with such issues (44%). Ninety-eight per cent of junior house officers had attended the 1-week undergraduate communication skills course at Guy's and St Thomas's Hospital Medical School (UMDS). Sixty-seven per cent of those who had attended found the course helpful and 62% felt they would benefit from further training as junior house officers. Seventy-four per cent felt they could discuss their work-related concerns with colleagues and 95% felt they could talk to friends. In contrast only about 9% felt they could, if needed, talk to a counsellor. Although the majority of the junior house officers reported benefit from their communication skills training, the course does not appear to be meeting all their communication training needs. Junior house officers require further training opportunities at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Traditional counselling services for junior house officers may not be meeting their support needs.