Case-based simulation empowering pediatric residents to communicate about diagnostic uncertainty

Maren E. Olson, Emily C Borman-Shoap, Karen Mathias, Timothy L Barnes, Andrew P Olson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background Uncertainty is ubiquitous in medical practice. The Pediatrics Milestones from the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education state that advanced learners should acknowledge and communicate about clinical uncertainty. If uncertainty is not acknowledged, patient care may suffer. There are no described curricula specifically aimed to improve learners' ability to acknowledge and discuss clinical uncertainty. We describe an educational intervention designed to fill this gap. Methods Second-year pediatric residents engaged in a two-phase simulation-based educational intervention designed to improve their ability to communicate about diagnostic uncertainty with patients and caregivers. In each phase, residents engaged in two simulated cases and debriefs. Performance was assessed after each simulated patient encounter using standardized metrics, along with learner perceptions of the experience. Results Residents' skills in communicating with patients and families about diagnostic uncertainty improved after this intervention (mean score post 3.84 vs. 3.28 pre on a five-point Likert scale, p<0.001). Residents rated the experience as relevant, challenging and positive. Conclusions This prospective study suggests that a simulation-based intervention was effective in improving resident physicians' skills in communicating about diagnostic uncertainty with patients and families. Further study is needed to determine how learners perform in real clinical environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-248
Number of pages6
JournalDiagnosis (Berlin, Germany)
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 27 2018


  • communication
  • medical education
  • simulation
  • uncertainty


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