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Abstract: PO1372

Implementation and Assessment of Virtual Standardized Patient Sessions to Teach Communication Skills to Nephrology Fellows During COVID-19

Session Information

Category: Educational Research

  • 800 Educational Research


  • Holmes, Racquel J., Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, United States
  • Fischer, Jonathan, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, United States
  • Lowe, Jared, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, United States
  • Schell, Jane O., University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
  • Farouk, Samira S., Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York, United States
  • Sparks, Matthew A., Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, United States

Group or Team Name

  • Duke Nephrology

Standardized patients (SP) are routinely used in medical education teaching learners how to communicate in traditionally challenging environments like end-of-life discussions or delivery of a difficult diagnosis. Adherence to the need for social distancing during COVID-19 has eliminated in-person SP encounters and necessitated virtual sessions using a video conferencing software. We assessed the impact of virtual, SP-based communication skills workshops on a cohort of nephrology fellows.


Over two weeks, nephrology fellows were invited to participate in two 90-minute communications workshops with a SP conducted over Zoom. Workshops included a didactic portion and SP interviews simulating difficult conversations. Fellows observed each other and provided feedback during the interviews. A 10-question survey was then distributed to the participants to evaluate the training sessions and compare them to analogous in-person communication workshops.


All invited fellows participated in at least one session and completed the survey (100%, 12/12). Five first-year fellows (42%, 5/12), 5 second-year fellows (42%, 5/12), and 2 third-year fellows (17%, 2/12) participated. 67% (8/12) of participants reported that they found the sessions useful. Of the fellows who had attended a prior in person simulation-based workshop (67%, 8/12) with standardized patients, 88% (7/8) rated the virtual session as good as or better than in-person role-playing. 83% (10/12) of respondents reported that skills learned during the virtual session would be used in their clinical practice. 83% (10/12) felt observing their co-fellows was useful. Write-in comments indicated a barrier to using virtual role playing was a challenge in recognizing emotion and empathy.


Virtual training sessions with SP actors were rated highly by the fellows and provided an opportunity for them to practice communication skills to incorporate into current practice. The virtual workshops were easily implemented, well-received, and should be considered as an alternative training format, especially when in-person workshops cannot be conducted. Future trainings can incorporate communication challenges that arise during telemedicine video or telephone encounters.