Communication skills training in oncology: a sociolinguistic approach (work in progress)


CHUV, University of Lausanne, Switzerland


Communication skills training in oncology: a sociolinguistic approach (work in progress)

Aim: Communication has been proved to be a key element in oncology. Since 1999, the Swiss Cancer League organizes Communication Skills Trainings (CST) based on videotaped interviews with simulated patients, case-discussions and role-playing exercises. The training is completed by individual supervisions of participants during a six-month period and a second video-taped interview with a simulated patient. It is known that clinicians participating in CST significantly improve different aspects of communication, such as increase of patient speaking time, use of open questions, investigation of patient concerns and empathic response. Little is known, however, about the underlying mechanisms of this improvement.

A linguistic approach aims to establish an inventory of oncology clinicians communication characteristics observed in interviews pre and post CST. The main hypothesis is that CST also generates positive modifications of linguistic aspects of communication. These modifications will be assessed by the means of a quantitative (LaComm software) and a qualitative analysis (discourse analysis).

Method/Issue: Transcribed videos of 60 participants of the French-speaking CST (60 videos pre and 60 videos post CST) are compared to a control group of 60 oncology clinicians who are video-taped conducting two interviews with a six months interval with the same simulated patients and the same scenarios used in CST.

The specific objective is to identify various linguistic indicators of change regarding communicational practices and competences of oncology clinicians by assessing how the linguistic form and content of the recorded consultations are modified by CST. Furthermore, the data will also be evaluated with regard to sociolinguistic links between language and social identities, such as age, gender and socio-professional background (physicians, nurses).

In oncology, several linguistic aspects are relevant for the evaluation of the communicational competence of clinicians. The most important linguistic elements are the way how clinicians choose their lexicon (use of jargon, metaphoric expressions, etc.), how they respond to topics introduced by the patients (e.g. elusion), how they reduced the asymmetrical character of clinician/patient interactions (interruptions, directivity of counselling, etc.) and how they position themselves as professionals and human beings (e.g. inclusive or exclusive pronouns).

Session: POSTERS: Focus on interaction, discourse, media, professional settings
Friday, April 4, 2008, 12:45-15:45
room: foyer