Breaking Bad News in obstetrics: a randomized trial of simulation followed by debriefing or lecture

Chavi Eve Karkowsky, Ellen J. Landsberger, Peter S. Bernstein, Ashlesha Dayal, Dena Goffman, Robert C. Madden, Cynthia Chazotte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Objective: Although communication skills represent an increasingly important aspect of medical care, little has been done to assess the best method of teaching these skills. Our study was designed to assess simulation-debriefing compared to lecture in teaching skills for Breaking Bad News (BBN) in obstetrics. Methods: This is a randomized prospective trial of house staff from a large academic medical center. Subjects initially underwent baseline simulation, followed by evaluation on BBN skills by themselves, a faculty observer, and the standardized patient (SP). The subjects were then immediately randomized to a debriefing session by faculty or to a lecture about BBN. Subsequently, both groups underwent a second simulation with the same three assessments, yielding post-intervention data. Results: 35 subjects completed both simulations. Both debriefing and lecture curricula showed improvement in scores by self (p = 0.010) and faculty (p < 0.001). The debriefing group improved significantly more than the lecture group for self-evaluation; additionally, improvements were greater for the debrief group in verbal and nonverbal skills. Long-term follow-up three months after both interventions demonstrated continued improvement in BBN. Conclusions: Simulation training with debriefing is effective for teaching communication skills, and superior to lecture for self-perceived improvement. Long-term follow-up suggested retention of confidence in BBN skills.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3717-3723
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 16 2016


  • Breaking Bad News
  • communication skills
  • medical education
  • randomized controlled study
  • simulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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