Teaching delivery of bad news using experiential sessions with standardized patients

Teach Learn Med. 2002 Summer;14(3):144-9. doi: 10.1207/S15328015TLM1403_2.


Background: Delivering bad news is a difficult task that is important to address in medical education.

Purpose: This study evaluated the impact of an experiential educational intervention using multiple standardized patient scenarios on medical students' comfort with delivering difficult news.

Methods: In small groups, 3rd-year medical students practiced communicating bad news within the context of five different patient scenarios. During 1999 and 2000, surveys were administered to 341 students before and 4 weeks and 1 year after the program. Students rated comfort level in discussing bad news, terminal illness, hospice, and dying with patients.

Results: A significant one standard deviation change was observed in students' self-reported comfort in communicating bad news after the educational program. The intervention was highly rated, especially the encounters with standardized patients and observation of others.

Conclusions: Experiential education using multiple standardized patient scenarios is a successful model for increasing student comfort in responding to difficult clinical communication tasks.

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Education, Medical / methods*
  • Humans
  • Patient Simulation
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Role Playing
  • Students, Medical / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Teaching / methods*
  • Truth Disclosure*