Project aim To provide a safe space for the experiential learning and practising of communication skills for hospice professionals.
Method A series of one hour workshops for up to 10 trained health care professionals were carried out at the hospice over a 7 month period (March to September 2017) facilitated by the hospice consultant and consultant nurse. Using a modified version of the ‘fish bowel technique’, a Clinical Nurse Specialist in palliative care was used as the actress. For each workshop, the participants discussed from their experiences and decided on their own challenging topic to practice their skills. Communication was discussed as the consultation progressed with both the facilitators and the actress giving feedback. Participants were encouraged to reflect on what they had heard from others. Participant written feedback was sought immediately after the workshop and in addition delayed feedback to determine the usefulness of the sessions to staff practice after the event.
Results 16 Health Care professionals attended the sessions including a doctor, nurses from the inpatient unit, the community and day hospice. In addition, a visiting medical student and 2 student nurses participated. Topics included Advance Care Planning, CPR discussions, talking with a very depressed patient, answering ‘Am I dying?’ Several staff attended more than one workshop, in these the facilitators saw definite improvements in their communication skills. Feedback, both immediate and delayed was extremely positive. All participants, ranging from students to experienced practitioners requested further opportunities to practice in this manner. The majority in each workshop stated they were more likely to broach the difficult topic and had learned skills to assist them.
Conclusion This simple method of teaching is a highly appreciated, successful method of training hospice staff in honing their communication skills and is suitable for professionals with a range of professional experience.