An interprofessional approach to teaching communication skills

National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education's picture
Submitted by National Center... on Mar 14, 2014 - 11:15am CDT


Recent research suggests that effective interprofessional communication and collaboration can positively influence patient satisfaction and outcomes. Health professional communication skills do not necessarily improve over time but can improve with formal communication skills training (CST). This article describes the development, evaluation, and lessons learned for a novel theater-based role-play CST program designed to improve community cancer care for patients and families by enhancing health care professionals' communication skills.


Four 2-hour interprofessional communication skills workshops for Nova Scotia health professionals were developed. Topics were (1) Essential Communication Skills, (2) Delivering Difficult News and Providing Support, (3) When Patients and Families Are Angry, and (4) Managing Conflict in the Workplace. Strategies for enhancing communication skills based on the science (evidence-based practice and teaching) and the art (interactive theater) of communication skills were included. Facilitators included professional actors, communication skills facilitators, and trained health professionals.


We used a mixed-methods evaluation design assessing 4 levels of educational outcomes at 3 points: pre- and post-workshop and follow-up.


Five hundred eighteen professionals representing over 20 health professions attended 17 workshops. Data showed the workshops were well received, despite some discomfort with role-playing. Pre/post paired t-tests of self-reported communication skills showed significant improvement after all workshops (p ≤ 0.05); 92% indicated intended changes to their communication practice immediately following the workshops. Of 68 respondents to the follow-up, 59 (87%) reported positive changes in the responses of their patients.


Both positive and negative lessons learned are described.

Copyright © 2011 The Alliance for Continuing Medical Education, the Society for Academic Continuing Medical Education, and the Council on CME, Association for Hospital Medical Education.

PubMed URL:

Sargeant, Joan
MacLeod, Tanya
Murray, Anne
Journal Citation: 
Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions. 31(4):265-7, 2011.