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Psychooncology. 2008 Mar;17(3):209-18.

Increasing oncologists' skills in eliciting and responding to emotional cues: evaluation of a communication skills training program.

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  • 1Medical Psychology Research Unit, School of Psychology, Brenan/McCallum Building, [A18], University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW 2006, Australia.



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.


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.


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.


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.

(c) 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd

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