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Br J Cancer. 2004 Jan 12;90(1):106-14.

Effects of a 105 hours psychological training program on attitudes, communication skills and occupational stress in oncology: a randomised study.

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  • 1Service de Psychologie, Hôpital Erasme, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Route de Lennik 808, Bruxelles 1070, Belgium.


There is today a wide consensus regarding the need to improve communication skills (CS) of health-care professionals (HCPs) dealing with cancer patients. Psychological training programs (PTPs) may be useful to acquire the needed CS. Testing the efficacy of PTP will allow to define their optimal content. The present study was designed to assess the impact of a PTP on HCP stress, attitudes and CS, and on HCP and patients' satisfaction with HCP communication skills in a randomised study. A total of 115 oncology nurses were randomly assigned to a 105-h PTP or to a waiting list. Stress was assessed with the Nursing Stress Scale, attitudes with a Semantic Differential Questionnaire, CS used during one simulated and one actual patient interview with the Cancer Research Campaign Workshop Evaluation Manual, and satisfaction with the nurses' CS with a questionnaire completed by the patients and the nurses. Trained (TG) and control (CG) groups were compared at baseline, after 3 months (just following training for TG) and after 6 months (3 months after the end of training for TG). Compared to controls, trained nurses reported positive changes on their stress levels (P</=0.05) and on their attitudes (P</=0.05). Positive training effects were found on CS used during the simulated interview: a significant increase in facilitative behaviours (open questions: P</=0.001; evaluative functions: P</=0.05) and a significant decrease in inhibitory behaviours (inappropriate information: P</=0.01; false reassurance: P</=0.05). Less positive training effects were found regarding interviews with a cancer patient: a significant increase in educated guesses (P</=0.001) was noticed. No training effect was observed on nurses' satisfaction levels, but a positive training effect was found on patients' satisfaction levels (P</=0.01). Although results outline PTP efficacy, they indicate the need to design PTP, amplifying the transfer of learned CS to clinical practice.

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