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The effectiveness of communication-skills training interventions in end-of-life noncancer care in acute hospital-based services: A systematic review

  • Laura Lord (a1), David Clark-Carter (a1) and Amy Grove (a2)

A systematic review was conducted in order to explore the effectiveness of communication-skills training interventions in end-of-life care with noncancer acute-based healthcare staff.


Articles were included if they (1) focused on communication-skills training in end-of-life/palliative care for noncancer acute-based staff and (2) reported an outcome related to behavior change with regard to communication. Sixteen online databases were searched, which resulted in 4,038 potential articles. Screening of titles left 393 articles that met the inclusion criteria. Abstracts (n = 346) and full-text articles (n = 47) were reviewed, leaving 10 papers that met the criteria for our review. All articles explored the effect of communication-skills training on aspects of staff behavior; one study measured the effect on self-efficacy, another explored the impact on knowledge and competence, and another measured comfort levels in discussing the end of life with patients/families. Seven studies measured a number of outcomes, including confidence, attitude, preparedness, stress, and communication skills.


Few studies have focused on end-of-life communication-skills training in noncancer acute-based services. Those that do have report positive effects on staff behavior with regard to communication about the end of life with patients and families. The studies varied in terms of the population studied and the health services involved, and they scored only moderately or weakly on quality. It is a challenge to draw a definite conclusion about the effectiveness of training interventions in end-of-life communication because of this. However, the findings from our review demonstrate the potential effectiveness of a range of training interventions with healthcare professionals on confidence, attitude, self-efficacy, and communication skills.

Significance of results:

Further research is needed to fully explore the effectiveness of existing training interventions in this population, and evidence using objective measures is particularly needed. Ideally, randomized controlled trials or studies using control groups and longer follow-ups are needed to test the effectiveness of interventions.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to Laura Lord, Research and Innovation, The Beeches, Penn Hospital, Penn, Wolverhampton, WV4 5HN, United Kingdom. E-mail:
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Palliative & Supportive Care
  • ISSN: 1478-9515
  • EISSN: 1478-9523
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