Communication and Relational Skills in Medicine

  • Carmel Loughland
  • Philippa Ditton-Phare
  • David W. KissaneEmail author
Part of the Integrating Psychiatry and Primary Care book series (IPPC)


Effective clinical communication is key to high-quality person-centered health care, but this can be challenging for medical professionals, especially when the news is unwelcome, distressing, or complex to deliver. Despite inherent challenges, effective communication can be taught. Two advanced communication training programs are discussed. The Comskil model teaches advanced modules to cancer clinicians about how to communicate distressing diagnostic and prognostic news to oncology patients and families. The program has matured into a comprehensive curriculum and utilizes highly trained simulated patients and small group role-plays that allow trainees to learn, practice, and evaluate communication skills in a safe learning environment. Digital recordings along with facilitator and peer group discussions are used to provide immediate feedback to trainees about their performance. The validity and utility of the Comskil program have been demonstrated, applied to over 1000 clinicians, as has the use of facilitator-led small group role-play sessions. This framework provided a useful model from which to develop a communication skills training program specific to psychiatry. The ComPsych model focuses on schizophrenia and management approaches aligned to a recovery-orientated framework and has demonstrated acceptability, utility, and efficacy for psychiatry. A greater understanding is needed of how medical professionals use a reflective process to make sense of their communication with patients, how training impacts communication style, and how communication style is further developed in practice.


Communication skills training Oncology Psychiatry Patient care Person-centeredness Facilitation 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carmel Loughland
    • 1
    • 2
  • Philippa Ditton-Phare
    • 1
    • 2
  • David W. Kissane
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryCentre for Brain and Mental Health Research, University of NewcastleNewcastleAustralia
  2. 2.Hunter New England Mental Health ServiceNewcastleAustralia
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.Szalmuk Family Psycho-Oncology Research UnitCabrini HealthMalvernAustralia

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