Training the powerful: issues that emerged during the evaluation of a communication skills training programme for senior cancer care professionals

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‘Connected’ is the name of the national advanced communication skills training programme developed in 2008 for cancer care professionals in the NHS. A 3-day training course combining didactic and experiential learning elements is run by two facilitators with course participants expected to engage fully in simulated consultations with trained actors. In 2011, and as a result of participant feedback on the length of the course and increasing pressures on budgets and clinical time, the Connected team developed and piloted an alternative 2-day training course. Before its roll-out in 2012, Birmingham City University was commissioned to evaluate the effectiveness and quality of the 2-day course vis-à-vis the ‘traditional’ 3-day one. This article is written by the two evaluators and it discusses some of the issues that emerged during the evaluation. We broadly grouped these issues into two overlapping categories: the mandatory nature of the course and the different professional background and seniority of participants. In our discussion we consider the implications these issues have for communication skills training policy and practice and put forward suggestions for further research.

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