Communicating death and dying through simulation: A project with pediatric residents


Communicating death and dying through simulation: A project with pediatric residents


Greening H G; Havalad V; Kobler K






acute disease; child; clergy; comfort; communication skill; conference abstract; conversation; curriculum; emergency treatment; human; Likert scale; pain; palliative therapy; residency education; resident; simulation; teaching; terminal care


Program Goals Pediatric residentscare for a wide spectrum of children with acute and chronic disease processes. They are often the first to communicate with families, yet receive little formal training in conveying difficult information. In 2014, during this author's chief resident academic year, many residents expressed feelings of frustration and inadequacy when caring for children at end-of-life, and also reported a lack of opportunities to process their patients' deaths. To address these needs, we partnered with an interdisciplinary team to create an end-of-life communications-based curriculum that was integrated into our existing resident simulation program. We aimed to provide communication opportunities for our residents in a safe, structured, and directly observed environment where they could practice communication skills and reflect on their experiences. We hypothesized that residents would value these simulations as part of their residency training, and would feel more comfortable communicating difficult news after practicing such skills. Evaluation The end-of-life simulation curriculum was developed by an interdisciplinary team of ICU and hospitalist physicians, pediatric palliative care professionals, child life specialists, and hospital chaplains. Over two years, all residents participated in simulations that focused on communicating with parents (standardized actors) in pediatric death and dying situations. Three pausing points were included during the simulation, offering residents the unique opportunity to discuss together how best to approach the next conversation with the standardized parent-actor. Following the simulations, the interdisciplinary team debriefed with the residents, allowing opportunity for reflection and addressing questions and concerns. After each simulation/debriefing cycle, educational resources were provided through an electronic teaching file, as well as opportunities to meet oneon- one with members of the interdisciplinary team for further processing. Pre-tests and post-tests were used to evaluate residents comfort with end-of-life communication and pediatric palliative care provision. A 5-point Likert scale was used to evaluate residents' level of comfort with a variety of skills/topics, including: discussing end-of-life care options with parents, limiting emergency treatment, managing pain/symptoms, pronouncing death, and coping with one's own responses to a child's death. Discussion Pediatric residents feel unprepared to communicate with families in end-of-life situations. Through this innovated simulation curriculum, we have been able to better understand the needs of our resident trainees and by providing exposure to these complex situations in a safe, empowering environment. Following our first year of data collection, we found that 92% of residents reported feeling more comfortable communicating with families in end-of-life situations after participating in a two hour simulation. The residents reported benefitting from these experiences; 100% of residents requested additional training in palliative care. We anticipate having second cycle data available for presentation in Fall, 2016 to further demonstrate the how this innovative simulation enhances pediatric resident education.


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Greening H G; Havalad V; Kobler K, “Communicating death and dying through simulation: A project with pediatric residents,” Pediatric Palliative Care Library, accessed May 27, 2024,