THURSDAY, Aug. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Training can help surgical
residents learn how to be more supportive and compassionate when
talking with patients facing cancer, a new study finds.
But even the training has limitations. While surgeons who
underwent communication training improved how they handled specific
cases, the training didn't improve their general communication
skills, according to the researchers.
The study included 44 general surgery residents who were first
assessed on their ability to talk to a person playing the role of a
patient about a breast or rectal cancer diagnosis, including
delivering the bad news and helping the patient understand what was
ahead. Residents were also assessed on their general communication
The surgery residents then took part in an interactive program
about doctor-patient communication. The residents were then
re-assessed and showed significant improvement in their
case-specific performance, but not in their general communication
skills, according to the report published in the August issue of
Archives of Surgery.
"Our results show that case-specific improvements seem more amenable to measurable improvement than general communications skills, at least with the limited short-term training that we used," wrote Dr. Rajiv Chandawarkar, of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, and colleagues. "Such skills can be assessed over a longer period, perhaps by incorporating this model and assessments from year to year."
In general, U.S. surgical residents have no formal training in
patient education and are expected to learn these skills in
practice, the researchers pointed out in a journal news release.
But "without communication skills, even the best surgical training
would be rendered ineffective," the authors concluded.