Pilot Evaluation of a Communication Skills Training Program for Psychiatry Residents Using Standardized Patient Assessment

Philippa Ditton-Phare, Harsimrat Sandhu, Brian Kelly, David Kissane, Carmel Loughland

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14 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE:Mental health clinicians can experience difficulties communicating diagnostic information to patients and their families/carers, especially about distressing psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. There is evidence for the effectiveness of communication skills training (CST) for improving diagnostic discussions, particularly in specialties such as oncology, but only limited evidence exists about CST for psychiatry. This study evaluated a CST program specifically developed for psychiatry residents called ComPsych that focuses on conveying diagnostic and prognostic information about schizophrenia. METHOD:The ComPsych program consists of an introductory lecture, module booklets for trainees, and exemplary skills videos, followed by small group role-plays with simulated patients (SPs) led by a trained facilitator. A standardized patient assessment (SPA) was digitally recorded pre- and post-training with a SP using a standardized scenario in a time-limited (15 min) period. Recorded SPAs were independently rated using a validated coding system (ComSkil) to identify frequency of skills used in five skills categories (agenda setting, checking, questioning, information organization, and empathic communication). RESULTS:Thirty trainees (15 males and 15 females; median age?=?32) undertaking their vocational specialty training in psychiatry participated in ComPsych training and pre- and post-ComPsych SPAs. Skills increased post-training for agenda setting (d?=?-0.82), while questioning skills (d?=?0.56) decreased. There were no significant differences in any other skills grouping, although checking, information organization, and empathic communication skills tended to increase post-training. A dose effect was observed for agenda setting, with trainees who attended more CST sessions outperforming those attending fewer. CONCLUSION:Findings support the generalization and translation of ComPsych CST to psychiatry.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)768-775
Number of pages8
JournalAcademic Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


  • Communication
  • Internship and residency
  • Psychiatry
  • Medical graduate education
  • Evaluation

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