Communication During Pediatric Intensive Care Unit Family Conferences: A Pilot Study of Content, Communication, and Parent Perceptions

Kelly Michelson*, Marla L. Clayman, Claire Ryan, Linda Emanuel, Joel Frader

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


While there is a robust literature describing family conferences (FCs) in adult intensive care units (ICUs), less information exists about FCs in pediatric ICUs (PICUs). We conducted a pilot study to describe the focus of discussion, communication patterns of health care team members (HTMs) and parents, and parents’ perspectives about clinician communication during PICU FCs. We analyzed data from 22 video- or audiorecorded PICU FCs and post-FC questionnaire responses from 27 parents involved in 18 FCs. We used the Roter Interaction Analysis System (RIAS) to describe FC dialogue content. Our questionnaire included the validated Communication Assessment Tool (CAT). FCs were focused on care planning (n = 5), decision making (n = 6), and updates (n = 11). Most speech came from HTMs (mean 85%; range, 65–94%). Most HTM utterances involved medical information. Most parent utterances involved asking for explanations. The mean overall CAT score was 4.62 (using a 1–5 scale where 5 represents excellent and 1 poor) with a mean of 73.02% “excellent” responses. Update and care-planning FCs had lower CAT scores compared to decision-making FCs. The lowest scoring CAT items were “Involved me in decisions as much as I wanted,” “Talked in terms I could understand,” and “Gave me as much information as I wanted.” These findings suggest that while health care providers spend most of their time during FCs relaying medical information, more attention should be directed at providing information in an understandable manner. More work is needed to improve communication when decision making is not the main focus of the FC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1225-1232
Number of pages8
JournalHealth Communication
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 3 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication


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