Studies of clinician–patient communication have used varied, ad hoc measures for communication efficacy. We developed and validated the Self-Efficacy for Medical Communication (SEMC) scale as a standard, quantitative measure of clinician-reported skills in communicating difficult news.
Using evidence-based scale development guidelines, we created two 16-item forms of the SEMC, one assessing communication with patients and one assessing communication with families. Clinicians providing oncological care in four organisations were invited to participate and provided consent. Participant demographics, responses to the SEMC items and responses to convergent and discriminant measures (those expected to relate strongly and weakly to the SEMC) were collected online. We performed analyses to determine the convergent and discriminant validity of the SEMC as well as its reliability and factor structure.
Overall, 221 oncology clinicians (including physicians, residents, fellows, medical students, nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants) participated. The patient and family forms both demonstrated high internal consistency reliability (alpha=0.94 and 0.96, respectively) and were strongly correlated with one another (r=0.95, p<0.001). Exploratory factor analysis demonstrated that the SEMC measures a unitary construct (eigenvalue=9.0), and its higher mean correlation with convergent (r=0.46) than discriminant (r=0.22) measures further supported its validity.
Our findings support the SEMC’s validity and reliability as a measure of clinician-rated communication skills regarding conducting difficult conversations with patients and families. It provides a useful standard tool for future research in oncology provider–patient serious illness communication.