Background Effective communication skills for clinical practice are essential for all advanced practice nurses. However, competence in these skills is not necessarily intuitive. Advanced communication skills should be taught in a way that is similar to the way other psychomotor skills in advanced nursing practice programs are taught.

Objectives To develop a patient communication simulation laboratory for the acute care nurse practitioner program at a major university and to evaluate students’ perceived confidence and communication effectiveness before and immediately as well as 4 months after completion of the laboratory.

Methods The communication simulation laboratory was developed in collaboration with faculty from the schools of nursing and medicine. Students participated in a didactic session and then completed a 2-hour communication simulation in the laboratory. Content and simulation concentrated on breaking “bad news,” empathetic communication, motivational interviewing, and the “angry” patient. Students’ self-reported confidence and perceived skill in communication were measured via a Likert scale before, immediately after, and 4 months after completion of the laboratory simulation. Students also evaluated the experience by responding to open-ended questions.

Results Compared with baseline findings (before the lecture and simulation), students’ confidence in initiating difficult conversations increased significantly both immediately (P<.001) and 4 months after (P=.001) the laboratory simulation. Students’ self-ratings of overall ability to communicate were also significantly greater immediately (P<.001) and 4 months (P=.001) after the simulation. Overall, students rated the laboratory simulation experience highly beneficial.

Conclusions The content and methods used for the simulation improved students’ confidence and perceived skill in communication in potentially difficult acute care situations.

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