The Critical Care Communication project: Improving fellows' communication skills

Robert M. Arnold, Anthony L. Back, Amber E. Barnato, Thomas J. Prendergast, Lillian L. Emlet, Irina Karpov, Patrick H. White, Judith E. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Purpose: The aim of this study was to develop an evidence-based communication skills training workshop to improve the communication skills of critical care fellows. Materials and methods: Pulmonary and critical care fellows (N = 38) participated in a 3-day communication skills workshop between 2008 and 2010 involving brief didactic talks, faculty demonstration of skills, and faculty-supervised small group skills practice sessions with simulated families. Skills included the following: giving bad news, achieving consensus on goals of therapy, and discussing the limitations of life-sustaining treatment. Participants rated their skill levels in a pre-post survey in 11 core communication tasks using a 5-point Likert scale. Results: Of 38 fellows, 36 (95%) completed all 3 days of the workshop. We compared pre and post scores using the Wilcoxon signed rank test. Overall, self-rated skills increased for all 11 tasks. In analyses by participant, 95% reported improvement in at least 1 skill; with improvement in a median of 10 of 11 skills. Ninety-two percent rated the course as either very good/excellent, and 80% recommended that it be mandatory for future fellows. Conclusions: This 3-day communication skills training program increased critical care fellows' self-reported family meeting communication skills.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)250-254
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Critical Care
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2015


  • Communication
  • Critical care
  • End-of-life care
  • Intensive care unit
  • Palliative care
  • Standardized patient


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