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J Palliat Med. 2013 May;16(5):531-6. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2012.0356. Epub 2013 Apr 27.

A brief educational intervention to teach residents shared decision making in the intensive care unit.

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Brookdale Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York 10029, USA.



Effective communication is essential for shared decision making with families of critically ill patients in the intensive care unit (ICU), yet there is limited evidence on effective strategies to teach these skills.


The study's objective was to pilot test an educational intervention to teach internal medicine interns skills in discussing goals of care and treatment decisions with families of critically ill patients using the shared decision making framework.


The intervention consisted of a PowerPoint online module followed by a four-hour workshop implemented at a retreat for medicine interns training at an urban, academic medical center.


Participants (N=33) completed post-intervention questionnaires that included self-assessed skills learned, an open-ended question on the most important learning points from the workshop, and retrospective pre- and post-workshop comfort level with ICU communication skills. Participants rated their satisfaction with the workshop.


Twenty-nine interns (88%) completed the questionnaires. Important self-assessed communication skills learned reflect key components of shared decision making, which include assessing the family's understanding of the patient's condition (endorsed by 100%) and obtaining an understanding of the patient/family's perspectives, values, and goals (100%). Interns reported significant improvement in their comfort level with ICU communication skills (pre 3.26, post 3.73 on a five-point scale, p=0.004). Overall satisfaction with the intervention was high (mean 4.45 on a five-point scale).


The findings suggest that a brief intervention designed to teach residents communication skills in conducting goals of care and treatment discussions in the ICU is feasible and can improve their comfort level with these conversations.

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