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Improving Patient Outcomes in End-of-Life Care Provided by Physicians and Nurses

Phase 3
18 Years
Not Enrolling
Advanced Cancer, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Restrictive Lung Disease, Congestive Heart Failure, End Stage Liver Disease

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Trial Information

Improving Patient Outcomes in End-of-Life Care Provided by Physicians and Nurses

Three decades of research on end-of-life care in the United States indicates that people who
are dying often spend their final days with a significant burden of pain and other symptoms
and receive care they would not choose. Patient-clinician communication about end-of-life
care is an important focus for improving patient-centered end-of-life care for three
reasons: 1) it is an integral component of clinician skill that affects all other aspects of
end-of-life care; 2) physicians and nurses in practice do not demonstrate adequate skills
for communicating about end-of-life care; and 3) current training in end-of-life
communication is inadequate. Studies have shown that clinicians can improve their
communication skills with experiential training, but no studies to date have shown that an
intervention to improve clinician communication skill improves patient outcomes.
Furthermore, despite widespread knowledge that end-of-life care is best delivered in an
interdisciplinary context, most studies do not incorporate interdisciplinary training that
includes physicians and nurses.

This is a randomized trial of a communication skills workshop for internal medicine
residents and nurse practitioner (NP) students. A total of 373 residents and 128 NP
students from two large training programs (UW and MUSC) will be randomized to either the
intervention or usual education. The study's primary outcome measure will be the QOC scores
on the "communication about end-of-life care" domain. The QOC will be assessed by patients,
family members, and nurses before and after the intervention time period for all trainees.
Secondary outcome measures are patient symptoms and patient-, family - and nurse-assessed
QEOLC scores. Outcome measures will be collected for 5 patients and family members per
trainee before the intervention period and 5 patients and family members per trainee after
the intervention period. Process measures for both residents and NP students will include
pre- and post-intervention assessment of knowledge, attitudes, and behavior regarding
communication using standardized patient assessment as well as self-assessment and faculty

Inclusion Criteria:


- all internal medicine residents at either University of Washington (UW)or the Medical
University of South Carolina

- who have a clinical rotation allowing implementation of the intervention.

NP Student:

- All NP Students at UW or MUSC

- in programs that train them to work with the following patient types:

- Adult patents with Cancer or other chronic, life-limiting illnesses

- Older Adults

- Adults Primary Care Patients


One or more of the following diagnostic criteria:

- Advanced Cancer;

- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) with FEV1 values < 35% predicted and/or
oxygen dependent;

- Restrictive lung disease with a TLC < 50% predicted;

- Congestive heart failure with an ejection fraction <30% or functional deficits
matching New York Heart Association Class III or IV heart failure;

- End stage liver disease including Child's Class C cirrhosis, MELD score ≥ 18, a
variceal bleed, refractory ascites, or spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP);

- a Charlson Comorbidity Score point value ≥6;

- in-patients with a University HealthSystem Consortium (UHC) Risk of Mortality score
of major or extreme;

- OR hospitalized patients ≥ 80 years.


- The ability to speak English well enough to be able to complete the study procedures

- AND no significant dementia or delirium that would limit the family member's ability
to complete instruments.


- are working in the hospital or clinic with the resident or NP student enrolled in the

Exclusion Criteria:

- less than 18 years,

- significant dementia, delirium, or psychosis;

- the inability to speak English well enough to be able to complete the study

Type of Study:


Study Design:

Allocation: Randomized, Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment, Masking: Open Label, Primary Purpose: Supportive Care

Outcome Measure:

Patient and family ratings on the "End-of-Life domain" of the Quality of Communication Questionaire (QOC)

Outcome Time Frame:


Safety Issue:


Principal Investigator

J. Randall Curtis, MD, MPH

Investigator Role:

Principal Investigator

Investigator Affiliation:

University of Washington, Div. of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine


United States: Federal Government

Study ID:




Start Date:

April 2007

Completion Date:

March 2013

Related Keywords:

  • Advanced Cancer
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Restrictive Lung Disease
  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • End Stage Liver Disease
  • End-of-Life issues
  • Talking with your doctor
  • Coping with chronic illness
  • Heart Failure
  • Liver Diseases
  • Lung Diseases
  • Respiration Disorders
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive
  • End Stage Liver Disease
  • Neoplasms



Medical University of South CarolinaCharleston, South Carolina  29425-0721
University of Washington; Harborview Medical CenterSeattle, Washington  98104
University of Washington; UW Medical CenterSeattle, Washington  98195
Veteran's Affairs Puget Sound HCSSeattle, Washington  98108