Course review

Advanced communication skills training for senior clinicians

Authors: Gopalakrishnan Deivasikamani 

Publication date:  21 Jul 2012

Effective communication skills are important for patient care, and patients and their families value good communication highly. But in practice communication is sometimes poor, leading to frustration, despair, strained doctor-patient relationships, and complaints. So, to improve communication skills a national programme was set up in accordance with the NHS cancer plan (2000), reinforced by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidance on supportive and palliative care (2004).

What is it?

It is a learner centred course for training in advanced communication skills. It includes workshops that entail role play and feedback. The main aim is to improve communication skills and to learn how to be an effective communicator.

Who is it for?

It is for senior clinicians and senior allied health professionals concerned with giving important news to patients and relatives. A separate course exists for clinicians and nurses working in paediatrics.

When did you do it?

I did it during my third year of specialist registrar training in geriatric medicine in May 2011.

Why did you do it?

I did it to develop my communication skills, which are important in my day to day clinical practice. Advanced communication skills are a part of continuing professional development and the generic curriculum competencies in higher medical training. I also wanted to get feedback on my communication skills from trained professionals. The course is rated as worth 18 continuing professional development points by the Royal College of Physicians.

What was the content of the course?

The course ran over three days, with mandatory attendance on all days. The first day consisted of lectures on evidence based medicine, barriers to communication, communication with specific patient groups, breaking bad news, and the various types of communication skills. The next two days entailed role play and video recording, in two separate groups. The tutor and the actor both gave constructive feedback. Candidates could choose scenarios relating to their own experience, and all candidates had a chance to role play. Some group work and much discussion took place. There were also guidelines for specific conversations, with a reading list.

Was the course worth it?

It was an excellent course with many learning points. It was fascinating to understand the fine points of effective communication. I learnt that simple things such as pausing and listening can be powerful tools of communication. The role play sessions were effective and a lot of fun. It was interesting to get perspectives from different members of the multidisciplinary group and from different specialties. Empathy and good listening were emphasised as the most important skills in communication. The course also highlighted the importance of picking up verbal and non-verbal cues from patients and their relatives. Overall, it was an inspiring and educative course.

Where does it take place and how much does it cost?

The course takes place in different locations throughout England. It is free to NHS staff as it is a national initiative to improve communication skills. It is usually run in a hotel with easy access and car parking.

Top tips

  • The course is popular so try to book in advance.

  • Attend all three days otherwise you do not get the certificate.

  • Think about situations in real clinical practice and discuss and share them with other candidates.

  • Remember to complete the feedback and evaluation form.

Further information

Further information is at [Link] . Go to the “calendar” link and choose the appropriate site, then contact the relevant coordinator to book a course.

Competing interests: None declared.

Gopalakrishnan Deivasikamani year 6 specialty trainee in geriatric and general medicine Lancaster Royal Infirmary, Lancaster, UK

Cite this as BMJ Careers ; doi: