Teaching End-of-Life Communication in Intensive Care Medicine: Review of the Existing Literature and Implications for Future Curricula

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Objectives:End-of-life (EOL) situations are common in the intensive care unit (ICU). Poor communication in respective situations may result in conflict and/or post-traumatic stress disorder in patients’ next of kin. Thus, training for EOL communication seems pivotal. Primary objective of the current report was to identify approaches for educational programs in the ICU with regard to EOL communication as well as to conclude on implications for future curricula.Materials and Methods:A literature review in MEDLINE, EMBASE, and PsychINFO was performed. A total of 3484 articles published between 2000 until 2016 were assessed for eligibility. Nine articles reporting on education in EOL communication in the ICU were identified and analyzed further.Results:The duration of EOL workshops ranged from 3 hours to 3 days, with several different educational methods being applied. Mounting data suggest improved comfort, preparedness, and communication performance in EOL providers following specific EOL training. Due to missing data, the effect of EOL training programs on respective patients’ next of kin remains unclear.Conclusion:Few scientific investigations focus on EOL communication in intensive care medicine. The available evidence points to increased comfort and EOL communication performance following specific individual EOL training. Given the general importance of EOL communication, we suggest implementation of educational EOL programs. When developing future educational programs, educators should consider previous experience of participants, clearly defined objectives based on institutional needs, and critical care society recommendations to ensure best benefit of all involved parties.

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