A rigorous evaluation of an institutionally-based communication skills program for post-graduate oncology trainees

Carma L. Bylund, Smita C. Banerjee, Philip A. Bialer, Ruth Manna, Tomer T. Levin, Patricia A. Parker, Elizabeth Schofield, Yuelin Li, Abraham Bartell, Alexander Chou, Shira A. Hichenberg, Maura Dickler, David W. Kissane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Objective: Integrating education about physician-patient communication into oncology specialists’ education is important to improve quality of care. Our aim was to rigorously evaluate a 4-year institutionally-based patient communication skills program for oncology post-graduate trainees. Methods: Trainees from 10 specialties in the U.S. participated in patient communication skills modules tailored to sub-specialties. The program was evaluated by comparing pre-post scores on hierarchical outcomes: course evaluation, self-confidence, skills uptake in standardized and real patient encounters, and patient evaluations of satisfaction with communication. We examined breadth of skill usage as key outcome. Generalized estimating equations were used in data analysis. Results: Two hundred and sixty-two trainees’ data were analyzed, resulting in 984 standardized and 753 real patient encounters. Participants reported high satisfaction and demonstrated significant skill growth with standardized patients, but transfer of these skills into real patient encounters was incomplete. Participants with lower baseline scores had larger improvements with both standardized and real patients. Conclusion: The program was well received and increased participant skills in the simulated setting without effective transfer to real patient encounters. Practice Implications: Future work should allocate proportionally greater resources to trainees with lower baseline scores and measure breadth of participant skill usage as an outcome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1924-1933
Number of pages10
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2018


  • Cancer communication
  • Communication skills training
  • Experiential learning
  • Graduate medical education
  • Patient simulation
  • Physician-patient relationship

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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