Communication Challenges of Oncologists and Intensivists Caring for Pediatric Oncology Patients: A Qualitative Study.

Year of Publication


Date Published

2017 Aug 11

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<p><strong>CONTEXT: </strong>The families of oncology patients requiring intensive care often face increasing complexity in communication with their providers, particularly when patients are cared for by providers from different disciplines.</p>

<p><strong>OBJECTIVE: </strong>To describe experiences and challenges faced by pediatric oncologists and intensivists and how the oncologist-intensivist relationship impacts communication and initiation of goals of care discussions (GCDs).</p>

<p><strong>METHODS: </strong>We conducted semi-structured interviews with a convenience sample of ten physicians, including pediatric oncology and intensive care attendings and fellows.</p>

<p><strong>RESULTS: </strong>We identified key themes (3 barriers, 4 facilitators) to having GCDs with families of oncology patients who have received intensive care. Barriers included challenges to communication within teams because of hierarchy and between teams due to incomplete sharing of information and confusion about who should initiate GCDs; provider experiences of internal conflict about how to engage parents in decision making and about the "right thing to do" for patients; and lack of education and training in communication. Facilitators included team preparation for family meetings; skills for partnering with families; the presence of palliative care specialists; and informal education in communication and willingness for further training in communication. Notably, the education theme was identified as both a barrier and a resource.</p>

<p><strong>CONCLUSION: </strong>We identified barriers to communication with families both within and between teams and for individual physicians. Formal communication training and processes that standardize communication to ensure completeness and role delineation between clinical teams may improve oncologists' and intensivists' ability to initiate GCDs, thereby fulfilling their ethical obligations of decision support.</p>



Alternate Title

J Pain Symptom Manage




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