Background: Despite proven benefit, pediatric subspecialists often have not been offered formal serious illness communication skills training. We sought to: 1) develop and evaluate the impact of a communication skills course, based on the VitalTalk framework, on Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) clinicians; 2) evaluate provider comfort with key serious illness communication skills and frequency of use of those skills, before and after “NeoTalk” and; 3) explore differences and similarities between adult and pediatric serious illness communication skills courses. Methods: We developed a NICU specific communication skills course and surveyed course participants to evaluate comfort with key communication skills before and after course participation, and frequency of use of key skills before and 2 months after our course. Wilcoxon signed rank tests and Kruskal-Wallis tests were performed to compare participant responses across time points. Results: 34 providers completed NeoTalk training. Complete pre- and post-course data was available for 29 participants. Participants reported increased comfort with skills including ‘sharing difficult news’ (P =.018), and ‘responding to emotion’ (P =.002). Participants did not report increased frequency in using target skills 2 months after training. Conclusions: A multi-disciplinary cohort of NICU providers endorsed increased confidence in key communication skills but not increased skill application 2-months post-course completion. While a single course can successfully teach skills, additional exposure may be necessary to build new communication habits. Our experience developing NeoTalk helped elucidate some of the ways in which conversations about seriously ill infants may be different from conversations about seriously ill adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)651-657
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine
Issue number6
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • communication
  • multi-disciplinary
  • neonatal
  • serious illness
  • skills training


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