Responding empathically to patients: A communication skills training module to reduce lung cancer stigma

Smita C. Banerjee, Noshin Haque, Carma L. Bylund, Megan J. Shen, Maureen Rigney, Heidi A. Hamann, Patricia A. Parker, Jamie S. Ostroff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Most lung cancer patients report perceiving stigma surrounding their diagnosis, and routine clinical interactions with their health care providers (HCPs) are reported as a common source. The adverse effects of lung cancer stigma are associated with several adverse psychosocial and behavioral outcomes. One potential clinician-level intervention target is empathic communication because of its association with higher rates of patients' satisfaction, treatment adherence, and lower levels of psychological distress. This study describes the conceptual model and evaluation of clinician-targeted empathic communication skills training to reduce lung cancer patients' experience of stigma. The goal of the training module is to enhance clinician recognition and responsiveness to lung cancer patients' empathic opportunities by communicating understanding, reducing stigma and distress, and providing support. Thirty multidisciplinary HCPs working in thoracic oncology, thoracic surgery, or pulmonary medicine participated in 2.25 hr of didactic and experiential training on responding empathically to patients with lung cancer. Overall, participants reported highly favorable evaluations of the training, with at least 90% of participants agreeing or strongly agreeing to 11 of the 12 items assessing clinical relevance, novelty, clarity, and facilitator effectiveness. Participants' self-efficacy to communicate empathically with lung cancer patients increased significantly from pretraining to posttraining, t(29) =-4.58, p <. 001. The empathic communication skills training module was feasible and well received by thoracic and pulmonary medicine HCPs and demonstrated improvements in self-efficacy in empathic communication from pretraining to posttraining. The examination of patient outcomes is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)613-618
Number of pages6
JournalTranslational behavioral medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2021


  • Communication skills training
  • Empathic communication
  • Lung cancer
  • Oncology
  • Self-efficacy
  • Stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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