Trial 7

Communication in the boardroom

Trial 7

Can practising difficult conversations with a professional actor build skills and confidence among health service board members?

Health service boards have a critical role to play in overseeing hospitals and health services and individual board members are responsible for navigating a range of complex health and safety issues to ensure patient safety. Thus, it is essential they have the skills and confidence required to effectively share information, communicate concerns and engage in difficult conversations when needed. The consequences of not doing so can be fatal.

For those new to the board setting, there are relatively few opportunities to practice and develop these skills in a controlled environment.

The purpose of this behavioural trial was to test if simulation training with an actor could help.

Tell us where it hurts - overview of boardroom intervention.



Tell us where it hurts - reenactment.

What did the literature tell us?

The first phase of this trial involved a Facilitated Dialogue with key stakeholders.

To ensure that participants had a good understanding of the issue – and what others around the world had done to address it – they were briefed with the results of a Rapid Evidence and Practice review (below).

Briefing document PDF

What's likely to fix the problem?

From the Facilitated Forum Dialogue, participants drew the following conclusions on how to best approach the issue of board member communication

Dialogue summary PDF

What did we do?

We tested the effectiveness of a two-hour workshop.

The trial involved 12 health service boards randomly selected to either attend the workshop or act as a control group.

During the workshop, each health service board member practised relevant conversational strategies, including having difficult conversations, with a professional actor under the guidance of a trained facilitator.

Please find more information in the Trial Protocol linked below.

Trial protocol here


What did we find?

Three months after attending the workshop, health board members reported significant improvements in their skills and confidence in communicating effectively during meetings and in mandated meeting processes, compared to the control group.

Media and other information

Full trial infographic PDF

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