An interactive educational workshop to improve end of life communication skills

J Contin Educ Health Prof. 2008 Fall;28(4):241-8; quiz 249-55. doi: 10.1002/chp.191.


Introduction: An understanding of legal, ethical, and cultural concerns and an ability to communicate when faced with clinical dilemmas are integral to the end of life decision-making process. Yet teaching practicing clinicians these important skills in addressing conflict situations is not strongly emphasized.

Methods: A one-day interactive continuing education workshop was designed to improve interactions among multiprofessional intensive care unit (ICU) clinicians, their colleagues, and families in a range of end of life situations using standardized families and colleagues (SF/SCs). Workshop participants completed preworkshop and postworkshop evaluations. Data were analyzed using the McNemar test for paired categorical data to evaluate changes in comfort, knowledge, and skill.

Results: The majority of evaluation respondents were nursing professionals, while only one physician (of two in attendance) responded. Statistically significant improvement was seen in all comfort levels, except when approaching cultural differences. Expectations were exceeded according to 76.2% of responses, while 82.4% rated SF/SCs "excellent" for improving communication skills and comfort levels with ethical and legal dilemmas. Peer discussions were highly valued in meeting educational objectives (95.2% good or excellent), and 95.2% rated achievement of personal learning objectives good or excellent. Qualitative data supported a high overall perception of success and achievement of educational objectives.

Discussion: An interactive workshop can be a valuable educational intervention for building capacity and confidence in end of life communication skills and ethical and legal knowledge for health care providers; further physician involvement is required to extrapolate results to this population.

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making / ethics
  • Education / methods*
  • Education, Continuing*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Interdisciplinary Communication*
  • Ontario
  • Professional-Family Relations* / ethics
  • Program Evaluation
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Terminal Care / ethics*
  • Terminal Care / legislation & jurisprudence*