Sharing life-altering information: development of pediatric hospital guidelines and team training

J Palliat Med. 2014 Sep;17(9):1011-8. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2013.0620. Epub 2014 Jun 27.


Abstract Background: Despite parent and physician reports of inadequate skill development, there are few guidelines for training the pediatric care team in sharing life-altering information (SLAI), i.e., "breaking bad news." The necessary skills for SLAI differ between pediatric and adult medical environments.

Objectives: We set out to establish evidence-based guidelines and multidisciplinary team training for SLAI in pediatrics, and to demonstrate an improvement in immediate self-efficacy of training participants.

Methods: A multidisciplinary task force, which included parent participation and feedback, and which received input from parents of patients in multiple pediatric subspecialties, crafted children's hospitalwide guidelines for SLAI. A one-hour training module on the guidelines was presented to several multidisciplinary pediatric team audiences; 159 voluntary pre- and post-presentation self-efficacy surveys were collected. Responses were analyzed by paired t-test (within groups) and ANOVA (between groups).

Results: All evaluated groups of care team members reported significant improvements in self-efficacy among four learning objectives after the training. Medical trainees, newer physicians, and nonphysician (e.g., midlevel providers including nurses) team members reported the greatest improvements, regardless of whether they had received previous training in SLAI.

Conclusions: We propose pediatric-focused SLAI guidelines based on a modified SPIKES protocol. Focus on patient- and family-centered, culturally sensitive pediatric practices should be the basis for development of training that can be periodically reinforced. Future comprehensive training will incorporate experiential learning. SLAI requires a skill set that benefits from lifelong learning.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Pediatric*
  • Humans
  • Inservice Training
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Care Team / organization & administration*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Professional-Family Relations*
  • Self Efficacy
  • Truth Disclosure*