Assessing interpersonal and communication skills in radiation oncology residents: a pilot standardized patient program.


Journal Article

PURPOSE: There is a lack of data for the structured development and evaluation of communication skills in radiation oncology residency training programs. Effective communication skills are increasingly emphasized by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and are critical for a successful clinical practice. We present the design of a novel, pilot standardized patient (SP) program and the evaluation of communication skills among radiation oncology residents. METHODS AND MATERIALS: Two case scenarios were developed to challenge residents in the delivery of "bad news" to patients: one scenario regarding treatment failure and the other regarding change in treatment plan. Eleven radiation oncology residents paired with 6 faculty participated in this pilot program. Each encounter was scored by the SPs, observing faculty, and residents themselves based on the Kalamazoo guidelines. RESULTS: Overall resident performance ratings were "good" to "excellent," with faculty assigning statistically significant higher scores and residents assigning lower scores. We found inconsistent inter rater agreement among faculty, residents, and SPs. SP feedback was also valuable in identifying areas of improvement, including more collaborative decision making and less use of medical jargon. CONCLUSIONS: The program was well received by residents and faculty and regarded as a valuable educational experience that could be used as an annual feedback tool. Poor inter rater agreement suggests a need for residents and faculty physicians to better calibrate their evaluations to true patient perceptions. High scores from faculty members substantiate the concern that resident evaluations are generally positive and nondiscriminating. Faculty should be encouraged to provide honest and critical feedback to hone residents' interpersonal skills.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Ju, M; Berman, AT; Hwang, W-T; Lamarra, D; Baffic, C; Suneja, G; Vapiwala, N

Published Date

  • April 2014

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 88 / 5

Start / End Page

  • 1129 - 1135

PubMed ID

  • 24661666

Pubmed Central ID

  • 24661666

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1879-355X

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0360-3016

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2014.01.007


  • eng