The implementation and evaluation of a communication skills training program for oncology nurses
Many nurses express difficulty in communicating with their patients, especially in oncology settings where there are numerous challenges and high-stake decisions during the course of diagnosis and treatment. Providing specific training in communication skills is one way to enhance the communication between nurses and their patients. We developed and implemented a communication skills training program for nurses, consisting of three teaching modules: responding empathically to patients; discussing death, dying, and end-of-life goals of care; and responding to challenging interactions with families. Training included didactic and experiential small group role plays. This paper presents results on program evaluation, self-efficacy, and behavioral demonstration of learned communication skills. Three hundred forty-two inpatient oncology nurses participated in a 1-day communication skills training program and completed course evaluations, self-reports, and pre- and post-standardized patient assessments. Participants rated the training favorably, and they reported significant gains in self-efficacy in their ability to communicate with patients in various contexts. Participants also demonstrated significant improvement in several empathic skills, as well as in clarifying skill. Our work demonstrates that implementation of a nurse communication skills training program at a major cancer center is feasible and acceptable and has a significant impact on participants' self-efficacy and uptake of communication skills.