Background: Oncologists routinely have opportunities for goals-of-care (GoC) discussions with patients. GoC discussions increase the likelihood that patients receive care consistent with their values. However, oncologists often feel ill-equipped to discuss end-of-life care. Objective: To assess the impact of a communication training and coaching intervention (INT) for oncologists during GoC discussions. Design: We randomized oncologists to usual care (UC) or a communication skills training INT, which consisted of an interactive training session and four joint visits with communication coaches. Setting/Subjects: Solid tumor oncologists seeing advanced cancer patients at four hospitals in New York and Connecticut. Measurements: Three blinded coders evaluated recorded encounters before and after INT using a validated tool to assess skill attainment. Results: Oncologists (n = 22) were 32% female and averaged 46 years of age. In baseline visits, INT oncologists (n = 11) and UC oncologists (n = 11) had no difference in the number of mean skills employed out of 8 GoC skills (INT 3.5, UC 2.4; p = 0.18). Post-INT, INT oncologists were significantly more likely to elicit patient values (55% vs. 0%; p = 0.01). There was no significant difference in overall mean skills employed (INT 3.4, UC 2.2; p = 0.14). Assessing for understanding, offering "I wish" statements, and providing prognosis were the least utilized skills among all oncologists. Conclusion: Our real-time communication skills coaching INT resulted in a significant increase in oncologists' ability to elicit patient values during GoC discussions, suggesting that skill acquisition can occur in the face of less intensive training. Future studies can highlight gaps leading to the lack of differences in utilization of other skills.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)838-845
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Palliative Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • cancer
  • goals of care
  • serious illness communication
  • value


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