Breaking bad news education for emergency medicine residents: A novel training module using simulation with the SPIKES protocol

J Emerg Trauma Shock. 2010 Oct;3(4):385-8. doi: 10.4103/0974-2700.70760.


Breaking bad news (BBN) in the emergency department (ED) is a common occurrence. This is especially true for an emergency physician (EP) as there is little time to prepare for the event and likely little or no knowledge of the patients or family background information. At our institution, there is no formal training for EP residents in delivering bad news. We felt teaching emergency medicine residents these communication skills should be an important part of their educational curriculum. We describe our experience with a defined educational program designed to educate and improve physician's confidence and competence in bad news and death notification. A regularly scheduled 5-h grand rounds conference time frame was dedicated to the education of EM residents about BBN. A multidisciplinary approach was taken to broaden the prospective of the participants. The course included lectures from different specialties, role playing for three short scenarios in different capacities, and hi-fidelity simulation cases with volatile psychosocial issues and stressors. Participants were asked to fill out a self-efficacy form and evaluation sheets. Fourteen emergency residents participated and all thought that this education is necessary. The mean score of usefulness is 4.73 on a Likert Scale from 1 to 5. The simulation part was thought to be the most useful (43%), with role play 14%, and lecture 7%. We believe that teaching physicians to BBN in a controlled environment is a good use of educational time and an important procedure that EP must learn.

Keywords: Delivering bad news; education; simulation.