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Kasat K, Stoffels G, Ellington M. Improving communication with parents: the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Empathy Workshop. J Perinatol. 2020;40(9):1423-1432. doi:10.1038/s41372-020-0742-x

Objective: To implement an “Empathy Workshop” focused on improving Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) health care provider communication skills.

Methods: Staff-led, small group “Empathy Workshops” were conducted over a 2 year period. NICU parents answered a section of the “Picker Institute Parent Experiences of Neonatal Care Survey” in the pre- and post-intervention periods. NICU health care providers completed the “NICU Provider Communication Skills Self-Assessment” at three time points.

Results: Parent survey scores significantly improved in two questions: referring to child by first name (p = 0.02) and being offered emotional support from the staff (p = 0.03) or information on parent support groups (p = 0.03). Fifty-seven NICU providers completed all three self-assessments. Following the workshop, providers were significantly more comfortable with daily communication, discussing end of life issues, managing anxiety around difficult conversations, and handling a combative situation.

Conclusions: The “Empathy Workshop” successfully enhanced NICU provider communication skills, thereby improving emotional support demonstrated to NICU parents.

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