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Communication-skills training for healthcare professionals is promising for improving end-of-life care in acute-care hospitals

Lord L, Clark-Carter D, Grove A  The effectiveness of communication-skills training interventions in end-of-life noncancer care in acute hospital-based services: A systematic review  Palliative Support Care. 2016 August;14(4):433-44.

Review question

What is the effectiveness of communication-skills training in non-cancer end-of-life care for health professionals working in acute-care hospitals?


Poor end-of-life communication in acute-care settings, possibly due to insufficient training, has contributed to poor experiences among patients who are dying.

To improve communication, the National Health Service End of Life Care Strategy was developed, to address some issues faced by healthcare staff who are planning and delivering end-of-life care.

There has been no recent review focused on end-of-life care for non-cancer patients, and existing evidence highlights gaps in effective communication between staff and patients about end-of-life care in acute-care hospitals, making it imperative to focus on communication-skills training.

How the review was done

A detailed search of a number of electronic databases for studies published up until 2015 was conducted. Studies that focused on communication-skills training for healthcare professionals working in acute-care hospitals, to improve communication and/or interaction with end-of-life/palliative care patients and their families, were included in the review.

A total of 4,038 studies were identified in searches, and 10 were included in the review after assessments for eligibility.

The authors did not acknowledge any funding sources for this review.

What the researchers found                 

Results varied between studies, but suggest that communication-skills training interventions can improve self-efficacy, confidence, comfort and preparedness among health professionals.

Results for other outcomes, including competency and knowledge of end–of-life care issues, communication skills in practice, stress and burnout, showed mixed results for improvements and require further research.


While it appears that training interventions for end-of-life communications may be effective for various outcomes, the current evidence does not provide definitive conclusions. Further research is required to assess the effectiveness with objective measures to determine the impact of training in practice with patients and their families.


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