Pediatric Chronic Critical Illness: Training Teams to Address the Communication Challenges of Patients With Repeated and Prolonged Hospitalizations

Renee D. Boss, Ryan S. Hirschfeld, Silvana Barone, Emily Johnson, Robert M. Arnold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Context: Children with chronic critical illness (CCI) have repeated and prolonged hospitalizations. Discrete communication challenges characterize their inpatient care. Objectives: Develop, implement, and evaluate a communication training for inpatient clinicians managing pediatric CCI. Methods: A one-day communication training for interdisciplinary clinicians, incorporating didactic sessions and simulated family and interdisciplinary team meetings. Results: Learners had an average of 11 years' clinical experience. About 34% lacked prior communication training relevant to pediatric CCI. Mean baseline competence across communication skills was 2.6 (range 2.4–3.2), corresponding to less than somewhat prepared; after the training, this increased to a mean of 4.0 (range 3.5–4.5), corresponding to well prepared. Skills with greatest improvement included conducting a family meeting, delivering bad news, discussing stopping intensive care, and end-of-life communication. After one month, perceived competence was sustained for seven of 10 skills; for remaining skills, perceived competence scores decreased by 0.1–0.2. About 100% of learners would recommend the training to colleagues; 89% advocated it for all clinicians caring for children with CCI. Conclusion: Interdisciplinary communication training regarding long stay patients is feasible and valued by novice and seasoned clinicians. The novel integration of intrateam communication skills alongside team-family skills reflects the reality that the care of children with CCI challenges clinicians to communicate well with each other and families. Teaching interdisciplinary teams to share communication skills has the potential to overcome reported limitations of existing inpatient discussions, which can be dominated by one or two physicians and lack contributions from diverse team members.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)959-967
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2020


  • Communication
  • chronic critical illness
  • medical education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine
  • Nursing(all)


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