Randomized Trial of a Training Program to Improve Home Visitor Communication around Sensitive Topics

Allison West, Laina Gagliardi, Amanda Gatewood, Susan Higman, Jane Daniels, Kay O’Neill, Anne Duggan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Strong communication skills are necessary to engage families, perform accurate assessments, and motivate behavior change around sensitive issues encountered in home visiting. Methods: A two-arm, cluster-randomized trial evaluated the impact of a trans-model communications training course for home visitors. Fourteen home visiting programs in Maryland were assigned to a training intervention (n = 7 programs; 30 visitors) or wait-list control group (n = 7 programs; 34 visitors). Independent observers assessed training fidelity. Visitor’s attitudes, knowledge, and confidence were assessed through surveys. Their skills were assessed through coding of video-recorded visits with standardized mothers. Data were collected at baseline, within 2 weeks post-training, and at 2 months post-training. Regression models accounted for clustering within programs and controlled for characteristics on which study groups differed at baseline. Results: Independent observers rated the training highly on fidelity and acceptability. Home visitors rated it as useful, consistent with their model, and worth the effort. Immediately following the training, the training group scored higher than the control group on a range of indicators in all domains—knowledge, attitudes, confidence, and skills in using motivational communication techniques. At 2 months post-training, impacts on knowledge and attitudes persisted; impacts on confidence and observed skill were attenuated. Discussion: The training course showed favorable immediate impacts on knowledge, attitudes, confidence, and skills, and long-term impacts on home visitor knowledge and attitudes. The findings underscore the need for ongoing reinforcement of skills following training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-78
Number of pages9
JournalMaternal and child health journal
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018


  • Communication
  • Fidelity
  • Home visiting
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Training evaluation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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