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Efficacy of a Short Role-Play Training on Breaking Bad News in the Emergency Department

  • Author(s): Servotte, Jean-Christophe
  • Bragard, Isabelle
  • Szyld, Demian
  • Van Ngoc, Pauline
  • Scholtes, Béatrice
  • Van Cauwenberghe, Isabelle
  • Donneau, Anne-Françoise
  • Dardenne, Nadia
  • Goosse, Manon
  • Pilote, Bruno
  • Guillaume, Michèle
  • Ghuysen, Alexandre
  • et al.

Introduction: Breaking bad news (BBN) in the emergency department (ED) represents a challenging and stressful situation for physicians. Many medical students and residents feel stressed and uncomfortable with such situations because of insufficient training. Our randomized controlled study aimed to assess the efficacy of a four-hour BBN simulation-based training on perceived self-efficacy, the BBN process, and communication skills.

Methods: Medical students and residents were randomized into a 160-hour ED clinical rotation without a formal BBN curriculum (control group [CG], n = 31) or a 156-hour ED clinical rotation and a four-hour BBN simulation-based training (training group [TG], n = 37). Both groups were assessed twice: once at the beginning of the rotation (pre-test) and again four weeks later. Assessments included a BBN evaluation via a simulation with two actors playing family members and the completion of a questionnaire on self-efficacy. Two blinded raters assessed the BBN process with the SPIKES (a delivery protocol for delivering bad news) competence form and communication skills with the modified BBN Assessment Schedule.

Results: Group-by-time effects adjusted by study year revealed a significant improvement in TG as compared with CG on self-efficacy (P < 0.001), the BBN process (P < 0.001), and communication skills (P < 0.001). TG showed a significant gain regarding the BBN process (+33.3%, P < 0.001). After the training, students with limited clinical experience prior to the rotation showed BBN performance skills equal to that of students in the CG who had greater clinical experience.

Conclusion: A short BBN simulation-based training can be added to standard clinical rotations. It has the potential to significantly improve self-efficacy, the BBN process, and communication skills.

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