NIHR: VOICE training for healthcare professionals aids communication with dementia patients

NIHR | November 2020 | VOICE training for healthcare professionals aids communication with dementia patients

The NIHR highlights how a training course has improved the confidence and communication skills of healthcare staff in treating and caring for patients with dementia.

Around 25 per cent of hospital beds are occupied by patients with dementia and their difficulties with communication can make treating other co/multi-morbidities more challenging. In many cases these problems are made worse by admission to hospital because they are unsettled by the change of environment, illness and seeing unfamiliar faces. 

Earlier studies underlined that clinicians currently receive very little or no dementia specific training to help them care for patients with dementia, despite the high number of patients with dementia in emergency care and acute settings. This enabled the NIHR to recognsie the potential benefit of appropriate dementia-specific training for healthcare professionals and, through its Health Services and Delivery Research (HS&DR) Programme, funded the VOICE (VideOing to Improve Communication Education) study to evaluate and deliver a new training programme. 

Led by Professor Rowan Harwood at the University of Nottingham, the VOICE study has shown promising results that evidence-based communication skills training for health professionals can improve their communication with patients with dementia.

The researchers developed a practical skills training course and online e-learning resource with the help of experts in communication skills training and carers of people with dementia. Actors were specially trained in simulating people with dementia, by the researchers to recreate the types of situations that healthcare professionals face in their everyday roles. The training course was tested on forty healthcare professional to determine whether they experienced improvements in their confidence and skills in communicating with people with dementia. At the outset the clinicians were asked to self-assess their confidence and a month after completing the training course they repeated this self-assessment. The study demonstrates that the intervention improves the communication skills of the healthcare professionals which will benefit patients by improving determination of needs, provision of comfort, reduce distress, and enhance inclusion in decision making.

Now the VOICE training course has been delivered to more than 180 healthcare professionals across the UK. Included in this number are 31 healthcare professionals who “trained as trainers”, and the 54 they went on to train at five English hospital trusts. More training has been planned for the future. The full impact news story is available from NIHR

Project information for the VOICE study is available from NIHR

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