Communication in Family Meetings: Developing and Assessing a Curriculum for Residents
Principal investigator: Julie T. Irish, Ph.D., Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Mass.
Overview: Effective clinician-family communication is essential in all healthcare settings, but particularly in acute care settings such as the intensive care unit (ICU). In the ICU, patients are usually unable to speak for themselves and family members become their surrogate decision-makers. The challenges are many. Information must be shared clearly so family members can understand the nature of their loved one’s illness, as well as the diagnostic and treatment plans under consideration by the ICU team. Beyond content, there is much more to convey – assurances that the doctor, nurse or social worker is truly listening and responsive, that their understanding goes beyond that of the disease per se and includes empathy for the patient’s and family’s situation and feelings, that the professionals caring for the patient seek to work together and with the family as partners on behalf of the patient’s best interests, and have the requisite competence to do so.
The more immediate goals of the project are: 1) to develop an innovative curriculum to enhance residents’ communication skills and interactions during family meetings; and 2) to assess the impact of the curriculum through family members’ satisfaction with family meetings.