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Physician Communication in Pediatric End-of-Life Care: A Simulation Study

Journal title
The American journal of hospice & palliative care
Publication year
Bateman, L. B.; Tofil, N. M.; White, M. L.; Dure, L. S.; Clair, J. M.; Needham, B. L.

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this exploratory study is to describe communication between physicians and the actor parent of a standardized 8-year-old patient in respiratory distress who was nearing the end of life. METHODS: Thirteen pediatric emergency medicine and pediatric critical care fellows and attendings participated in a high-fidelity simulation to assess physician communication with an actor-parent. RESULTS: Fifteen percent of the participants decided not to initiate life-sustaining technology (intubation), and 23% of participants offered alternatives to life-sustaining care, such as comfort measures. Although 92% of the participants initiated an end-of-life conversation, the quality of that discussion varied widely. CONCLUSION: Findings indicate that effective physician-parent communication may not consistently occur in cases involving the treatment of pediatric patients at the end of life in emergency and critical care units. PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: The findings in this study, particularly that physician-parent end-of-life communication is often unclear and that alternatives to life-sustaining technology are often not offered, suggest that physicians need more training in both communication and end-of-life care.

Research abstracts