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Case Study

Client: NHS Postgraduate Deaneries – Trent Deanery


Medical Postgraduate Education
We want our junior doctors to do more than cover key competencies in behaviour and communication.


The Foundation Programme Directors had found that previous courses in communication had elicited the response ‘boring’ or ‘done it already’ from their junior doctors. He wanted to find an approach which challenged young doctors, supported their move into a successful career path, and stimulated an interest in communication for the length of their careers. Grievances or complaints usually relate in some degree to communication issues — and those stay on file for one’s entire life. So doctors are under a great deal of pressure not just to be superb clinically, but also to be entirely empathic and understanding human beings.

We are now in our sixth year delivering the course for the Foundation Programme doctors. The course was developed by working very closely with Foundation Programme Directors in two NHS Trusts (South Yorkshire and South Humber, and Trent). By now, we’ve run over eighty two-day courses for almost 1000 junior doctors, addressing key Foundation competencies of communication with patients, working with colleagues, and professional behaviour. According to the emphasis required by the different Foundation Schools, the courses have focused either on ‘Dealing with Difficulties and Complaints’ or on ‘Building Respectful Relationships with Patients and Colleagues’.

Our approach to behavioural and communication change is unusual for its breadth of application, working not just with patients and patients’ relatives, but across the broad colleagues above and below them in the hierarchy. Our needs-based approach has been unusual within healthcare training for its emphasis not just on patients’ needs, but on the needs of healthcare professionals themselves. One objective has been to raise awareness of whose needs we choose to address at any particular moment, and how this awareness (or lack of it) plays an essential role in the development of interpersonal relations. As a by-product of the course, doctors have found it useful for forthcoming job interviews, and one Trust changed the timing of the course to pre-date the interviews. You can see the results of self-evaluations, and an article about the course (published in Medical Education, May 2009) on pages Communication in Healthcare and Downloads.


Annie Rankin – Simon McKibbin – Elizabeth English


‘An excellent way of looking at how you respond to your patients, colleagues and relatives at work and at home. But it needs more trainers that you can work in smaller groups and have more feedback.’
F1 and F2 Doctors

‘The feedback and insightful comments from tutors after the role plays were very helpful, especially concerned with dealing with conflicts.’
F1 and F2 Doctors

‘I would especially recommend this course for people whose job involves working with the general public and with sensitive issues.’
F1 and F2 Doctors

‘Recommended not just for doctors in hospitals but for nurses and managers too!’
F1 and F2 Doctors

‘The course is useful no matter what your job is. Generally good for human relations. Excellent tutor, pleasant friendly and genuine approach.’
F1 and F2 Doctors

‘Very good, lively, entertaining, good quick pace. Not too much touchy-feely stuff and useless jargon.’
F1 and F2 Doctors

‘Although I was pretty dubious about the whole thing by the end I really could see how it could be used… [the trainer] had a very calm and patient teaching style. He obviously cared that we got something out of the course.’
F1 and F2 Doctors

‘I have today been on the F2 foundation training day entitled ‘Conflicts and Complaints’. So far, I have found this course to be invaluable, and highly recommend it. It crossed my mind that in many of the recent interviews for ST posts there was a station that involved dealing with such a situation. I feel that I would have benefited greatly from having this training before such interviews took place. Indeed, it is clear that some of my F2 colleagues had a distinct advantage as they had completed the course before some of the interviews took place.’
A&E Doctor


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