Journal of Cancer Education

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 187–191 | Cite as

Medical Students’ Skills and Needs for Training in Breaking Bad News

  • Friedrich StiefelEmail author
  • Céline Bourquin
  • Carine Layat
  • Sara Vadot
  • Raphael Bonvin
  • Alexandre Berney


This study assessed medical students’ perception of individual vs. group training in breaking bad news (BBN) and explored training needs in BBN. Master-level students (N = 124) were randomised to group training (GT)—where only one or two students per group conducted a simulated patient (SP) interview, which was discussed collectively with the faculty—or individual training (IT)—where each student conducted an SP interview, which was discussed during individual supervision. Training evaluation was based on questionnaires, and the videotaped interviews were rated using the Roter Interaction Analysis System. Students were globally satisfied with the training. Still, there were noticeable differences between students performing an interview (GT/IT) and students observing interviews (GT). The analysis of the interviews showed significant differences according to scenarios and to gender. Active involvement through SP interviews seems required for students to feel able to reach training objectives. The evaluation of communication skills, revealing a baseline heterogeneity, supports individualised training.


Breaking bad news Medical students Individual vs. group training Communication skills Training needs 



This study was supported by the Fonds d’Innovation Pédagogique (FIP) of the University of Lausanne.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Friedrich Stiefel
    • 1
    Email author
  • Céline Bourquin
    • 1
  • Carine Layat
    • 2
  • Sara Vadot
    • 2
  • Raphael Bonvin
    • 2
  • Alexandre Berney
    • 1
  1. 1.Psychiatric Liaison ServiceLausanne University HospitalLausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.Medical Education UnitFaculty of Biology and Medicine of the University of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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