Development and Evaluation of a Child Neurology Resident Curriculum for Communication Around Serious Illness

Jan A. Martin*, Fiona Sampey, Alison Feldman, Lori Silveira, Craig A. Press, Ricka Messer, Megan Barry, Paritosh Kaul

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Communication around serious illness is a core competency for all residencies. One-fifth of neurology residencies have no curriculum. Published curricula use didactics or role-play to assess confidence performing this skill without evaluation in clinical settings. The SPIKES mnemonic (Setting, Perception, Invitation, Knowledge, Empathy, Strategy/Summary) outlines 6 evidence-based steps for communication around serious illness. It is unknown whether child neurology residents can incorporate SPIKES into communication around serious illness in clinical settings. Objective: To develop and evaluate a curriculum on communication around serious illness using SPIKES for child neurology residents that shows long-term skill retention in clinical settings at a single institution. Methods: In 2019, we created a pre-post survey and skills checklist based on SPIKES, with 20 total including 10 core skills. Faculty observed residents’ (n = 7) communication with families and completed both preintervention and postintervention checklists for comparison. Residents underwent training in SPIKES during a 2-hour session using didactic and coached role-play. Results: All (n = 7) residents completed preintervention surveys, 4 of 6 completed postintervention. All (n = 6) participated in the training session. Following the training, 75% of residents reported improved confidence in use of SPIKES, though 50% were still unsure about appropriately responding to emotions. There was improvement in all SPIKES skills, with significant improvement in 6 of 20 skills up to 1 year following training. Conclusion: This is the first evaluation of the implementation of a communication around serious illness curriculum for child neurology residents. We identified improved comfort with SPIKES after training. Successful acquisition and utilization of this framework in our program suggests it could be incorporated into any residency program.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)307-314
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of child neurology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 2023


  • adolescents
  • children
  • disability
  • ethics
  • infant
  • neonate
  • outcome
  • pediatric
  • quality of life

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Development and Evaluation of a Child Neurology Resident Curriculum for Communication Around Serious Illness'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this