Teaching communication and stress management skills to junior physicians dealing with cancer patients: a Belgian Interuniversity Curriculum
Background: Ineffective physicians' communication skills have detrimental consequences for patients and their relatives, such as insufficient detection of psychological disturbances, dissatisfaction with care, poor compliance, and increased risks of litigation for malpractice. These ineffective communication skills also contribute to everyday stress, lack of job satisfaction, and burnout among physicians. Literature shows that communication skills training programs may significantly improve physicians' key communication skills, contributing to improvements in patients' satisfaction with care and physicians' professional satisfaction. This paper describes a Belgian Interuniversity Curriculum (BIC) theoretical roots, principles, and techniques developed for junior physicians specializing in various disciplines dealing with cancer patients. Curriculum description: The 40-h training focuses on two domains: stress management skills and communication skills with cancer patients and their relatives. The teaching method is learner-centered and includes a cognitive, behavioral, and affective approach. The cognitive approach aims to improve physicians' knowledge and skills on the two domains cited. The behavioral approach offers learners the opportunity to practice these appropriate skills through practical exercises and role plays. The affective approach allows participants to express attitudes and feelings that communicating about difficult issues evoke. Such an intensive course seems to be necessary to facilitate the transfer of learned skills in clinical practice. Conclusions: The BIC is the first attempt to bring together a stress management training course and a communication training course that could lead not only to communication skills improvements but also to burnout prevention.