The VOICE study – a before and after study of a dementia communication skills training course

Fuh, Jong-Ling, O’Brien, Rebecca, Goldberg, Sarah. E., Pilnick, Alison, Beeke, Suzanne, Schneider, Justine, Sartain, Kate, Thomson, Louise, Murray, Megan, Baxendale, Bryn and Harwood, Rowan H. (2018) The VOICE study – a before and after study of a dementia communication skills training course. PLoS ONE, 13 (6). e0198567/1-e0198567/16. ISSN 1932-6203

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A quarter of acute hospital beds are occupied by persons living with dementia, many of whom have communication problems. Healthcare professionals lack confidence in dementia communication skills, but there are no evidence-based communication skills training approaches appropriate for professionals working in this context. We aimed to develop and pilot a dementia communication skills training course that was acceptable and useful to healthcare professionals, hospital patients and their relatives.


The course was developed using conversation analytic findings from video recordings of healthcare professionals talking to patients living with dementia in the acute hospital, together with systematic review evidence of dementia communication skills training and taking account of expert and service-user opinion. The two-day course was based on experiential learning theory, and included simulation and video workshops, reflective diaries and didactic teaching. Actors were trained to portray patients living with dementia for the simulation exercises. Six courses were run between January and May 2017. 44/45 healthcare professionals attended both days of the course. Evaluation entailed: questionnaires on confidence in dementia communication; a dementia communication knowledge test; and participants’ satisfaction. Video-recorded, simulated assessments were used to measure changes in communication behaviour.


Healthcare professionals increased their knowledge of dementia communication (mean improvement 1.5/10; 95% confidence interval 1.0–2.0; p<0.001). Confidence in dementia communication also increased (mean improvement 5.5/45; 95% confidence interval 4.1–6.9; p<0.001) and the course was well-received. One month later participants reported using the skills learned in clinical practice. Blind-ratings of simulated patient encounters demonstrated behaviour change in taught communication behaviours to close an encounter, consistent with the training, but not in requesting behaviours.


We have developed an innovative, evidence-based dementia communication skills training course which healthcare professionals found useful and after which they demonstrated improved dementia communication knowledge, confidence and behaviour.

Item Type: Article
Schools/Departments: University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Sociology and Social Policy
University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Health Sciences
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Depositing User: Eprints, Support
Date Deposited: 13 Jun 2018 15:00
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2018 16:31

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