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Development of a training course to improve sharing bad news (SBN) skills in fertility care: the FertiCOMM

Cardiff School of Psychology

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Dr S Gameiro No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Bad news are shared every day at fertility clinics (e.g., infertility diagnosis, treatment failure) but tailored evidence-based guidance for staff is lacking. We will co-develop a training course to improve fertility staff skills in sharing bad news (SBN) with their patients: the FertiCOMM.

For each 10 women starting fertility treatment 7 receive news that their cycle failed (HFEA, 2019). Sharing bad news (SBN) is a daily occurrence in fertility care, including news of fertilization failure, recurrent miscarriage, etc.
SBN are a major challenge for patients and staff. After a failed cycle, 30% of men and 10% of women present a psychiatric disorder (e.g., depression). Patients who receive bad news experience unanticipated emotional or physical reactions (e.g., shock) and 47% express that staff could do better in SBN. Fertility staff perceive SBN as one of the biggest challenges of their job and report willingness to receive training.

Perception of insensitive care and mismanagement of psychological aspects are leading reasons why patients stop treatment and change clinics. SBN in a sensitive way is expected to result in better patient-centred-care experiences and higher patient satisfaction ratings. These are conducive to higher treatment uptake and, therefore, higher chances of conception.

1) Develop training to improve fertility staff skills in SBN: the FertiCOMM;
2) Assess the acceptability and fidelity of FertiCOMM among fertility staff and patients.

Following MRC guidance to develop complex interventions, to develop the FertiCOMM, we will conduct a Systematic Literature Review of existing SBN training and conduct Online Surveys and run Focus Groups with fertility patients and staff to assess their needs and preferences in SBN;
Results obtained will inform the co-production of FertiCOMM.
To assess FertiCOMM (RQ3) we will design and implement a small-scale feasibility stydy whereby staff from the Wales Fertility Institute will be offered the FertiCOMM training and observed using new skills while SBN with 4 patients each (N=80) one week after. We will collect data on staff’s performance while SBN and self-perceived confidence to do it (fidelity), as well as on their views of using the FertiCOMM (acceptability). Patients’ experiences of patient-centred-care and satisfaction with care will also be assessed (acceptability).

Training opportunities

This PhD programme offers candidates training in Health and Social Psychology and its practical applications into health services improvement.

The supervision team is interdisciplinary and composed of academics and field practitioners. The student will develop competences in intervention co-production (with stakeholders) and testing (according to the UK Medical Research Council guidance), use of mixed-methods designs, participatory research, patient-centred care, among others.
The programme includes training opportunities with the Cardiff Doctoral Academy and other world leading research institutions such as DECIPHER and the Centre for Trials Research.

Funding Notes

The studentship will commence in October 2020 and will cover your tuition fees (at UK/EU level) as well as a maintenance grant. In 2019-2020 the maintenance grant for full-time students was £15,009 per annum. As well as tuition fees and a maintenance grant, all School of Psychology students receive conference and participant money (approx. £2250 for the duration of the studentship).They also receive a computer, office space and access to courses offered by the University’s Doctoral Academy and become members of the University Doctoral Academy.


Full awards (fees plus maintenance stipend) are open to UK Nationals, and EU students who can satisfy UK residency requirements. To be eligible for the full award, EU Nationals must have been in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the course for which they are seeking funding, including for the purposes of full-time education.

As only one studentship is available and a very high standard of applications is typically received, the successful applicant is likely to have a very good first degree (a First or Upper Second class BSc Honours or equivalent) and/or be distinguished by having relevant research experience.

How to apply:

You can apply online - consideration is automatic on applying for a PhD in Psychology, with an October 2020 start date (programme code RFPDPSYA).

Please use our online application service at

and specify in the funding section that you wish to be considered for ESRC funding. Please specify that you are applying for this particular project and the supervisor.

Application deadline: 3rd February 2020 at 12 noon, with interviews (either in person or by Skype) being held on or around March and decisions being made by April.

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