Palliative and Supportive Care
Westmoreland KD, Banda FM, Steenhoff AP, Lowenthal ED, Isaksson E, Fassl BA.
The purpose of this study was to demonstrate effectiveness of an educational training workshop using role-playing to teach medical students in Botswana to deliver bad news.
A 3-hour small group workshop for University of Botswana medical students rotating at the Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone was developed. The curriculum included an overview of communication basics and introduction of the validated (SPIKES) protocol for breaking bad news. Education strategies included didactic lecture, handouts, role-playing cases, and open forum discussion. Pre- and posttraining surveys assessed prior exposure and approach to breaking bad news using multiple-choice questions and perception of skill about breaking bad news using a 5-point Likert scale. An objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) with a standardized breaking bad news skills assessment was conducted; scores compared two medical student classes before and after the workshop was implemented.
Forty-two medical students attended the workshop and 83% (35/42) completed the survey. Medical students reported exposure to delivering bad news on average 6.9 (SD = 13.7) times monthly, with 71% (25/35) having delivered bad news themselves without supervision. Self-perceived skill and confidence increased from 23% (8/35) to 86% (30/35) of those who reported feeling “good” or “very good” with their ability to break bad news after the workshop. Feedback after the workshop demonstrated that 100% found the SPIKES approach helpful and planned to use it in clinical practice, found role-playing helpful, and requested more sessions. Competency for delivering bad news increased from a mean score of 14/25 (56%, SD = 3.3) at baseline to 18/25 (72%, SD = 3.6) after the workshop (p = 0.0002).
Significance of results
This workshop was effective in increasing medical student skill and confidence in delivering bad news. Standardized role-playing communication workshops integrated into medical school curricula could be a low-cost, effective, and easily implementable strategy to improve communication skills of doctors.