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Beyond communication: The development of a training program for hospital and hospice staff in the detection and management of psychological distress—Preliminary results

  • Kate Jenkins (a1), Beccy Alberry (a1), Jane Daniel (a1), Laura Dixie (a1), Vivien North (a1), Lawrence Patterson (a1), Sarah Pestell (a1) and Nigel North (a1)...

In the United Kingdom, a Four-Tier Model of Psychological Support has been recommended for all patients with cancer and their families. This model suggests that staff at Tier 2, such as nurses, doctors, and allied health professionals, should be proficient in screening for psychological distress and intervening with techniques such as psycho-education and problem solving. Research has suggested that although communication skills training is essential for staff working in cancer services, it does not necessarily improve the detection of specific psychological disorder or staff confidence in intervening with highly distressed patients. The objective was therefore to design a training program that addressed this deficit and was easily accessible to hospital staff.

Method:. A training package was developed to train staff in the recommended skills. A literature review of teaching modalities and the effectiveness of different formats was conducted. A four-session program was developed, to be administered by staff at Tiers 3 and 4 of the model, such as clinical psychologists and counsellors.


Over 3 years, 255 sets of data were collected from staff who attended the course. Precourse, postcourse, and 6-month follow-up data were collected through the use of confidence questionnaires, developed from the literature. The data show a significant improvement in staff confidence across all domains measured, including confidence in the detection and management of psychological distress (p =.0001).

Significance of results:

Although the results have limitations and the data are subjective, we can conclude that this course significantly improves staff confidence in dealing with psychological distress and that this increased confidence is maintained over a 6-month follow-up period.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Kate Jenkins, Clinical Psychology (Health), Salisbury District Hospital, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP2 8BJ, UK. E-mail:
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Palliative & Supportive Care
  • ISSN: 1478-9515
  • EISSN: 1478-9523
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