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Friday, March 15, 2019

Patient Communication: Resources to Help You Better Serve Your Patients

Communicating effectively with patient is a vital component of your role as a hematologist/oncologist. You not only provide information, but also compassion and support. Enhancing your communication skills is vital to building a strong patient-provider relationship. There are a number of resources available to cancer care providers to help them hone their expertise.

 A good place to find support is through organizations whether that be through health care facilities or professional societies, like ASH and ASCO.

  • In 2017, ASCO released a consensus guideline on patient­-clinician communication (J Clin Oncol 2017; doi:10.1200/JCO.2017.75.2311). The aim was to "provide guidance to oncology clinicians on how to use effective communication to optimize the patient-clinician relationship, patient and clinician well-being, and family well-being."
  • Institutions also offer resources to oncologists hoping to improve their communication skills. For instance, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, has the I*CARE (Interpersonal Communication and Relationship Enhancement) program. This offering is available to clinicians who want to "learn strategies and techniques to help you improve how you talk to your patients about difficult subjects with our videos and other tools. They may be used to teach and to learn core competencies in communication skills."

"There are in-person training that happens around the country at various institutions," noted Lindsay Wilde, MD, Assistant Professor of Medical Oncology, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson Health, Philadelphia. "Also, many fellowships use standardize patients or simulations in order to practice these skills. Therefore, getting involved in those areas can really help you to continue to learn and enhance your skills.

In addition to continuing education opportunities, it can be helpful to reach out to your colleagues for support. "I feel really fortunate that I have great mentors in my life who have shown me what to do and in some cases what not to do," Wilde said. "When I am struggling or when I think a conversation didn't go well, I talk to my colleagues and get their advice. We don't have to go through these difficult things alone, we can learn from each other."

Looking for more tips on effective communication? Check out the latest "Your Career Path" column in HemOnc Times to learn more about how to share a cancer diagnosis with your patient.