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Simulation-based education to improve communication skills: a systematic review and identification of current best practice

Abstract

Background Good communication in healthcare between professionals and between professionals and patients is important in delivering high-quality care. Evidence of translation of technical skills taught through simulation into the clinical environment has been demonstrated, but the evidence for the impact of communication skills is less well known.

Objectives To identify and critically appraise the evidence for the impact of communication taught through simulation-based education (SBE) and use this evidence to suggest a model for future SBE interventions for communication skills.

Study selection MEDLINE, CINAHL, EMBASE and PsycINFO were searched for articles pertaining to communication skills taught through simulation. A content expert was consulted to suggest additional studies. 1754 studies were initially screened for eligibility, with 274 abstracts screened further. 147 full-text articles were further assessed for eligibility, with 79 of these excluded. The remaining 68 studies were reviewed and 18 studies were included in the qualitative synthesis as studies designed to show benefits beyond the simulation centre.

Findings The 18 identified studies with an impact at a Kirkpatrick level of ≥3, are analysed; 4 looking specifically at communication between healthcare professionals and 14 looking at communication between health professionals and patients or relatives.

Conclusions There is some evidence that the improvements in communication taught through simulation can be translated into benefits measurable beyond the simulation centre, but this evidence is limited due to the way that most of the studies are designed. We suggest a model for SBE aimed at teaching communication skills that is informed by the current evidence and takes into account the need to collect higher-level outcome data.

  • communication
  • simulation training
  • education medical
  • education nursing
  • patient simulation

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