Neonatologist training to guide family decision making for critically ill infants

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2009 Sep;163(9):783-8. doi: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2009.155.


Objectives: To assess neonatology fellow training in guiding family decision making for high-risk newborns and in several critical communication skills for physicians in these scenarios.

Design: A Web-based national survey.

Setting: Neonatal-perinatal training programs in the United States.

Participants: Graduating fellows in their final month of fellowship.

Main outcome measures: Fellows' perceived training and preparedness to communicate with families about decision making.

Results: The response rate was 72%, representing 83% of accredited training programs. Fellows had a great deal of training in the medical management of extremely premature and dying infants. However, they reported much less training to communicate and make collaborative decisions with the families of these infants. More than 40% of fellows reported no communication training in the form of didactic sessions, role play, or simulated patient scenarios and no clinical communication skills training in the form of supervision and feedback of fellow-led family meetings. Fellows felt least trained to discuss palliative care, families' religious and spiritual needs, and managing conflicts of opinion between families and staff or among staff. Fellows perceived communication skills training to be of a higher priority to them than to faculty, and 93% of fellows feel that training in this area should be improved.

Conclusions: Graduating neonatology fellows are highly trained in the technical skills necessary to care for critically ill and dying neonates but are inadequately trained in the communication skills that families identify as critically important when facing end-of-life decisions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Clinical Competence
  • Communication*
  • Critical Illness*
  • Decision Making*
  • Education, Medical, Graduate
  • Fellowships and Scholarships
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Internet
  • Linear Models
  • Neonatology / education*
  • Professional-Family Relations*
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States