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General Principles

What is the most effective way to train about communication and relationships?

Obviously there is no one easy answer to that, it very much depends on the particular circumstances. However there are some general principles which can guide your decisions:

include cognitive, behavioural and emotional aspects of communication and focus on the acquisition of skills and/or strategies for dealing with specific situations

  • use a combination of didactic and experiential methods, including role play, group work and discussion
  • be learner-centred
  • provide a safe environment for the development of skills, reflection and self-awareness
  • have defined and measurable core competencies
  • be led by professionals who are trained and understand issues relevant to the clinical context
  • provide constructive feedback

(NICE, 2009 (

Similarly, a  recent review of the literature highlights a range of factors important to the success of training on communication skills, including integrating learning and everyday practice.  Insert Reference to Scoping report

Good Practice in Formal Training Design and Delivery
- Challenge negative beliefs about, and reinforce the benefits of, good communication.
- Be 'culturally competent' and focused, ensuring that training responds to cultural diversity.
- Include buy-in amongst participants, managers/supervisors and senior managers.
- Include opportunities for managers and/or supervisors to participate.
- Have clear transfer strategies, including planning in advance of training.
- Ensure that training content and goals are conceptually linked to outcomes that are important for both patients and healthcare professionals.
- Establish specific, measurable and time-targeted objectives for the application of new skills.
- Understand the contextual and organisational characteristics of the setting for implementation.
- Have a focus upon 'self-directed' learning, including peer support for individuals post-training to discuss implementation experiences.
- Incorporate activities which promote the transfer of skills into practice, particularly those that augment or improve supervisory practice and support.
- Utilise cognitive, behavioural and affective approaches to skills development.
- Be of an adequate duration and intensity.
- Be learner-centred, skills-focused and practice-orientated and be organised in small teaching/learning groups.