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Neonatologists Need to Brush Up on Communication Skills

Need for training in dealing with parents facing end-of-life decisions identified

THURSDAY, Sept. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Although neonatologists graduate with a high degree of training in the technical skills they need, they typically lack adequate training in how to best communicate with families facing end-of-life decisions, according to a study published in the September issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Renee D. Boss, M.D., of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and colleagues conducted a study of 140 graduating fellows in neonatal-perinatal training programs, of whom 72 percent responded. They asked respondents about how prepared they were to communicate with families.

Although the level of training in the medical management of extremely premature and dying infants is very high, over 40 percent of respondents said that they had not had any training, such as didactic sessions, role play or scenario simulations, in communicating with patients' families. Palliative care, religious and spiritual issues, and managing conflicts of opinion between families and staff, or among staff, were the areas in which respondents felt their training to be the least adequate, the investigators note.

"The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education has emphasized the importance of neonatology fellow training in interpersonal and communication skills, but training programs appear to fall short of their obligation," the authors write.

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