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Use of high-fidelity simulation to improve communication skills regarding death and dying: a qualitative study


Objectives The objectives of this study were to explore medical students' experiences of communicating with patients and their carers about death and dying, and to assess whether using high-fidelity simulation improved students' confidence in discussing cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Methods This qualitative study was carried out at a hospital in the south of England. Participants were 7 final-year medical students. Tutorials were developed using high-fidelity simulation to teach communication skills regarding discussion of cardiopulmonary resuscitation with patients and carers. Scenarios involved a simulated ward environment, a high-fidelity simulation mannequin and actor playing the role of a carer. Data were collected through joint interviews carried out by one researcher which were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. The same researcher analysed the data using framework analysis.

Results Students reported a lack of experience observing conversations with patients and carers about death and dying. They also reported a lack of opportunities to interact with dying patients during their training. Barriers reported by students included healthcare professionals' and patients' attitudes. Students reported a lack of confidence and preparedness to have consultations with patients and carers about death, dying and cardiopulmonary resuscitation as junior doctors. They perceived role-play scenarios observed by their peers to be stressful, and this detracted from the learning experience. Students reported that the high-fidelity simulation scenarios were more realistic than low-fidelity (‘role-play’) scenarios. This improved the learning gained from the sessions and improved confidence among some students.

Conclusions This study has suggested that high-fidelity simulation may be a useful adjunct for undergraduate communication skills training in palliative medicine. Further research is required to assess whether improvements in confidence described by students in this study translate to discernible improvements in competence, and whether using high-fidelity simulation in this setting is cost-effective.

  • simulation
  • education
  • communication

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