Challenging Conversations in Healthcare: Simulation-Based Interprofessional Learning
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Introduction: Interprofessional education is central to the mission of the Institute for Professionalism and Ethical Practice, based at Boston Children's Hospital and affiliated with Harvard Medical School. The Institute’s Program to Enhance Relational and Communication Skills (PERCS) offers simulation-based interprofessional workshops designed to help trainees and practitioners engage in challenging healthcare conversations across situations such as critical care, primary care, parent presence during resuscitation, spiritual distress, adverse medical outcomes, informed consent, organ donation, and others.
Objective: To describe the pedagogy, recruitment statistics and sustained participant outcomes of the Program to Enhance Relational and Communication Skills (PERCS).
Methods: The pedagogical framework is based on creating safety for learning, emphasizing moral and relational aspects of care, suspending hierarchy to support interprofessional learning, honoring multiple perspectives, and valuing reflection and self-discovery. Programs bring together physicians, nurses, social workers, psychologists, chaplains and other healthcare professionals for a wide range of innovative educational offerings. Core learning occurs through live enactments of challenging conversations with professional actors portraying patients and family members, followed by guided debriefings that support individual and group reflection.
Results: Approximately 3000 local, national and international professionals have participated since the program’s inception in 2002. PERCS workshop participants have reported a greater sense of preparation, confidence, improved communication and relational skills, and decreased anxiety when holding challenging healthcare conversations immediately following training and up to 12 months later. Benefits of the training were not related to discipline, level of experience or previous educational opportunities.
Conclusions: Participants reported enhanced communication and relational skills. The program strives to develop relational competence in the healthcare world, including qualities of compassion, trust, and respect between clinicians and patients, and increased attention to interprofessional collaboration and knowledge sharing.
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