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Br J Cancer. 2002 Jul 1;87(1):1-7.

Does training increase the use of more emotionally laden words by nurses when talking with cancer patients? A randomised study.

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CP191, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Faculté des Sciences Psychologiques et Pédagogiques, 50 av, Franklin Roosevelt, Brussels, 1050 Belgium.


The emotional content of health care professionals-cancer patient communication is often considered as poor and has to be improved by an enhancement of health care professionals empathy. One hundred and fifteen oncology nurses participating in a communication skills training workshop were assessed at three different periods. Nurses randomly allocated to a control group arm (waiting list) were assessed a first time and then 3 and 6 months later. Nurses allocated to the training group were assessed before training workshop, just after and 3 months later. Each nurse completed a 20-min clinical and simulated interview. Each interview was analysed by three content analysis systems: two computer-supported content analysis of emotional words, the Harvard Third Psychosocial Dictionary and the Martindale Regressive Imagery Dictionary and an observer rating system of utterances emotional depth level, the Cancer Research Campaign Workshop Evaluation Manual. The results show that in clinical interviews there is an increased use of emotional words by health care professionals right after having been trained (P=0.056): training group subjects use 4.3 (std: 3.7) emotional words per 1000 used before training workshop, and 7.0 (std: 5.8) right after training workshop and 5.9 (std: 4.3) 3 months later compared to control group subjects which use 4.5 (std: 4.8) emotional words at the first assessment point, 4.3 (std: 4.1) at the second and 4.4 (std: 3.3) at the third. The same trend is noticeable for emotional words used by health care professionals in simulated interviews (P=0.000). The emotional words registry used by health care professionals however remains stable over time in clinical interviews (P=0.141) and is enlarged in simulated interviews (P=0.041). This increased use of emotional words by trained health care professionals facilitates cancer patient emotion words expressions compared to untrained health care professionals especially 3 months after training (P=0.005). This study shows that health care professionals empathy may be improved by communication skills training workshop and that this improvement facilitates cancer patients emotions expression.

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