NephroTalk: Train the Trainers’ Communication Workshop for Nephrology Educators Slated for Spring 2015

The ability to effectively communicate with patients and their families is an essential skill for nephrologists. Available data suggest that effective communication can strengthen patient and family participation in treatment decisions and enhance a patient’s experiences and care at the end of life. Effective communication is often viewed as an inherent skill that a person either possesses or lacks. However, a growing body of work suggests that these skills can be taught. Within nephrology education, Dr. Jane Schell and colleagues developed NephroTalk, a communication workshop designed to teach effective communication skills to nephrology fellows.

Effective communication skills are especially critical in discussions about end-of-life preferences and advance care planning (ACP). Data suggest that most patients with ESRD have not engaged in ACP and are unprepared for the kinds of treatment decisions that they may face toward the end of life. In a recent study of care received by older Medicare beneficiaries during the final month of life, patients with ESRD were more likely to receive intensive interventions such as intubation and cardiopulmonary resuscitation and less likely to receive hospice services compared with other patients with life-limiting conditions. These intensive patterns of end-of-life care may highlight an important opportunity to enhance ACP in this population to ensure that patients are receiving care that is congruent with their preferences. Available data in this population, as in other populations, suggest that timely conversations about the end of life and ACP have been associated with high-quality end-of-life care and improved caregiver outcomes. Collectively, these realities signal the need for efforts to enhance ACP in this population.

In spring 2015, the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) will sponsor a workshop entitled “NephroTalk: Train the Trainers’ Communication Workshop for Nephrology Educators.” This 3-day workshop will adapt the original NephroTalk workshop to teach attendees the communication skills necessary to both engage in ACP with their own patients and teach these communication skills to trainees. The Train the Trainers workshop is targeted at nephrology educators who wish to teach communication skills at their own institutions (e.g., faculty-level physicians and advanced practitioners). Teaching faculty will include members of VitalTalk, the nonprofit communication entity that developed NephroTalk. The content focus of the workshop will be hands-on learning of communication skills with specific relevance to ACP in older adults with advanced kidney disease.

The workshop will be held April 27 to 29, 2015, in Pittsburgh, PA. ASN will cover the cost of the workshop for up to 10 participants and will provide each participant with a stipend of at least $800 to defray the costs of travel. Preference will be given to applicants who demonstrate an interest in promoting and developing communication education at their home institutions and who can demonstrate the institutional support needed to accomplish this goal. A request for applications will be posted on the ASN website at the end of July 2014. For more information about the workshop and application requirements, please email ASN Policy Associate Mark Lukaszewski at mlukaszewski@asn-online.org.