Cover: Serious Illness Communication Skills Training During a Global Pandemic

Serious Illness Communication Skills Training During a Global Pandemic

Published in: ATS Scholar, Volume 3, Issue 1, pages 64–75 (2022). doi: 10.34197/ats-scholar.2021-0074OC

Posted on Jun 1, 2022

by Jared Chiarchiaro, Robert Arnold, Natalie C. Ernecoff, Rene Claxton, Julie W. Childers, Jane O. Schell


Communication skills is a core competency for critical care fellowship training. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has made it increasingly difficult to teach these skills in graduate medical education. We developed and implemented a novel, hybrid version of the Critical Care Communication (C3) skills with virtual and in-person components for pulmonary and critical care fellows.


To develop and implement a new hybrid virtual/in-person version of the traditional C3 serious illness communication skills course and to compare learner outcomes to prior courses.


We modified the C3 course in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic by adapting large-group didactic content to an online format that included both virtual asynchronous and virtual live content. Small-group skills training remained in person with trained actors and facilitators. We administered self-assessments to the participants and compared with historical data from the traditional in-person courses beginning in 2012. After the 2020 course, we collected informal feedback from a portion of the learners.


Like the traditional in-person version, participants rated the hybrid version highly. Learners reported feeling well prepared or very well prepared over 90% of the time in most communication skills after both versions of the course. Over 90% of participants in both versions of the course rated the specific course components as effective or very effective. Feedback from the learners indicates that they prefer the virtual didactics over traditional in-person didactics.


Pulmonary and critical care fellows rated a hybrid version of a communication skills training similarly to the traditional in-person version of the course. We have provided a scaffolding on how to implement such a course. We anticipate some of the virtual components of this training will outlive the current pandemic based on learner feedback.

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