Code status communication training in postgraduate oncology programs: a needs assessment

Curr Oncol. 2020 Dec;27(6):e607-e613. doi: 10.3747/co.27.6221. Epub 2020 Dec 1.


Background: Discussions with patients with cancer about cardiopulmonary resuscitation directives (code status) are often led by residents. This study was carried out in Canada to identify current educational practices and gaps in training for this communication skill.

Methods: Canadian medical and radiation oncology residents and program directors (pds) were surveyed about teaching practices, satisfaction with current education, and barriers to teaching code status discussion skills. Relative frequencies of categorical and ordinal responses were calculated.

Results: Between November 2016 and February 2017, 95 (58.6%) of 162 residents and 17 (63%) of 27 pds completed surveys. Only 54.1% and 48.3% of medical and radiation oncology residents, respectively, had received any code status communication training before entering an oncology program. While 41% of residents expected to receive formal teaching on this topic during residency, 47.1% of pds endorsed inclusion of this topic in curricula. Only 20% of residents reported receiving formal evaluation of this skill while 41.2% of pds indicated that evaluations are provided. The importance of this communication skill in oncology was strongly supported. Among residents, 88% desired more training, and 82.3% of pds identified the need for new educational resources. Lack of time, resources, and evaluation tools were among the most commonly identified barriers to teaching.

Conclusions: Oncology residency pds and trainees feel that code status communication is important, but teaching and evaluation of this skill are limited. Barriers to teaching and skill-building have been identified. Further work is underway to develop novel educational resources for code status communication training.

Keywords: Postgraduate medical education; advanced directives.