Background: This study assessed surgeons' current perceived level of competence in a number of interactional skills, their perceptions of the need for training and assessment in interactional skills, and their perceptions of the appropriateness of the format and content of two existing communication skills training packages.
Methods: Of 267 surgeons who were sent the survey, 63% (n= 143) of eligible respondents completed and returned it.
Results: More than three-quarters of the sample identified the following skills as being important or very important in being a good surgeon: breaking bad news; preparing patients for surgical procedures; educating patients about their diagnosis and treatment, and increasing the likelihood that they will remember what they have been told; detecting anxiety and depression in patients, encouraging patients to express these and listening to their anxieties. More than half the sample felt at least competent at seven of the 10 interactional skills, but almost one-third of the sample reported being ‘not or not at all competent’ at increasing patients' ability to remember what they have been told and at encouraging patients to express anxieties about their condition, and a further 13.3% reported a lack of competence at breaking bad news to patients about their diagnosis/prognosis. A higher proportion reported a lack of competence in providing bereavement counselling (59.6%), and gaining consent for organ donation (56.6%) and for autopsy (48.9%). The majority rated different aspects of the two communication skills training packages as either ‘good’ or ‘excellent’.
Conclusions: The survey identified a number of communication skills which are perceived by surgeons to be important and to require formal training and assessment.