Paper in Psycho-Oncology
  • Butow P, Cockburn J, Girgis A, Bowman, D., Schofield, P., D'Este, C., et al. (2008) Increasing oncologists' skills in eliciting and responding to emotional cues: Evaluation of a communication skills training program. Psycho-Oncology, 17(3), 209-218.

    Purpose: Psychological morbidity in cancer patients is common, but often undetected and untreated. We developed a communication skills training (CST) program targeting this issue, and evaluated its impact on doctor behaviour.

    Patients and Methods: Thirty of 35 oncologists from six teaching hospitals in six Australian cities participated. The CST was a 1.5-day intensive face-to-face workshop incorporating presentation of principles, a DVD modelling ideal behaviour and role-play practice, followed by four 1.5 h monthly video-conferences incorporating role-play of doctor-generated scenarios. Doctors were randomized to receive the CST or not. Simulated patient interviews were videotaped and coded at baseline, after CST and 6 months later. Doctors completed questionnaires assessing stress and burnout at the same time points.

    Results: Doctors in the intervention group displayed more creating environment and fewer blocking behaviours at both follow-ups; however, these differences did not reach statistical significance. Intervention doctors valued the training highly, but did not report substantial reductions in stress and burnout.

    Conclusions: This short training programme demonstrated a positive effect on aspects of doctor behaviour. Video-conferencing after a short training course may be an effective strategy for delivering CST.