Several clinician training interventions have been developed in the past decade to address serious illness communication. While numerous studies report on clinician attitudes and confidence, little is reported on individual education modalities and their impact on actual behavior change and patient outcomes.
To examine what is known about the education modalities used in serious illness communication training and their impact on clinician behaviors and patient outcomes.
A scoping review using the Joanna Briggs Methods Manual for Scoping Reviews was conducted to examine studies measuring clinician behaviors or patient outcomes.
Ovid MEDLINE and EMBASE databases were searched for English-language studies published between January 2011 and March 2023.
The search identified 1317 articles: 76 met inclusion criteria describing 64 unique interventions. Common education modalities used were: single workshop ( n = 29), multiple workshops ( n = 11), single workshop with coaching ( n = 7), and multiple workshops with coaching ( n = 5); though they were inconsistently structured. Studies reporting improved clinician skills tended to be in simulation settings with neither clinical practice nor patient outcomes explored. While some studies reported behavior changes or improved patient outcomes, they did not necessarily confirm improvements in clinician skills. As multiple modalities were commonly used and often embedded within quality improvement initiatives, the impact of individual modalities could not be determined.
This scoping review of serious illness communication interventions found heterogeneity among education modalities used and limited evidence supporting their effectiveness in impacting patient-centered outcomes and long-term clinician skill acquisition. Well-defined educational modalities and consistent measures of behavior change and standard patient-centered outcomes are needed.