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J Hum Nutr Diet. 2009 Dec;22(6):493-500; quiz 501-3. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-277X.2009.00980.x.

Communication skills for behaviour change in dietetic consultations.

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1
School of Biosciences, University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington, Loughborough, UK. kirsten.whitehead@nottingham.ac.uk

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Both the UK's National Health Service (NHS) and the National Institute of health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) have recommended increased training for health professionals in communication skills. There is evidence to suggest that communication skills are important in helping people to change health-related behaviour, which is a key role for dietitians. This study investigated the views of UK dietitians about their training needs and experience in relation to communication skills in dietetic practice.

METHODS:

In October 2007, a cross-sectional survey was mailed to all British Dietetic Association members (n = 6013). The survey gathered quantitative data and free-text comments to ascertain the level, type and effect of communication skills training received by dietitians at both the pre- and post-registration level.

RESULTS:

There were 1158 respondents; a response rate of 19.3%. Ninety-eight percent (n = 1117) rated communication skills as either very or extremely important in client consultations. Post-registration training had been undertaken by 73% (n = 904). Of these, over 90% of respondents perceived that post-registration training had led to improvements in their relationships with patients, their confidence in client interviews and their ability to cope with challenging clients. However, 248 (21.4%) felt time keeping in interviews had worsened. Lack of time for client interviews was also the most commonly identified barrier (19%, n = 216) to implementing the skills.

CONCLUSIONS:

This study has explored an important and under-researched area. Respondents strongly endorsed the importance of good communication skills and the benefits of post-registration training in this area. Some felt that good communication was time consuming but others felt that time management had improved. Further research and training is required to support the implementation of these skills into dietetic practice.

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