Context: High quality communication is essential to older adults’ medical decision-making, quality of life, and adjustment to serious illness. Studies have demonstrated that Geritalk, a two day (16 hours total) in-person communication skills training improves self-assessed preparedness, skill acquisition, and sustained practice of communication skills. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Geritalk was adapted to a virtual format (four days, 10 hours total). Objectives: Our study evaluated the change in participants’ self-assessed preparedness for serious illness communication before and after the virtual course and satisfaction with the course, and compared these findings to responses from a prior in-person Geritalk course. Methods: Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine fellows at three urban academic medical centers completed surveys, which employed five-point Likert scales, before and after the virtual course to assess satisfaction with the course and preparedness for serious illness communication. Results: Of the 20 virtual Geritalk participants, 17 (85%) completed the pre-course assessment, and 14 (70%) completed the post-course assessment. Overall, satisfaction with the course was high (mean 4.9 on a 5‐point scale). Compared to in-person Geritalk participants, virtual course participants reported comparable and significant (P < 0.01) improvements in mean self-reported preparedness across all surveyed communication skills. Conclusion: We show that a virtual communication skills training is feasible and effective. Our findings suggest that the innovative virtual Geritalk course has the potential to increase access to communication skills training, improve serious illness communication skills, and in improve the quality of care received by older adults with serious illness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e206-e212
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Serious illness communication
  • communication skills training
  • goal-concordant care


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