Adapting an Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) on Conducting Difficult Conversations Between Nephrology Fellows and Patients to a Virtual Platform: A Research Letter

Maura A. Watson, Anna M. Howle, Oliver Lenz, Ross J. Scalese, Joshua D. King, Jonathan A. Bolanos, Christina M. Yuan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: We previously described a nephrology-specific “Breaking Bad News” Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) assessing nephrology fellow communication and counseling skills in 3 scenarios: kidney replacement therapy (KRT) in kidney failure, urgent KRT in acute kidney injury (AKI), and kidney biopsy (KBx). Objective: The main objectives of this study is to adapt the OSCE to a virtual platform, simulating nephrology patient telemedicine encounters involving difficult conversations, and to assess fellow and faculty satisfaction with the virtual format. Design: Description of a formative telemedicine simulation for nephrology fellows. Setting: Fully virtual simulation conducted by 2 academic medical simulation centers. Participants: Nephrology faculty and fellows at 3 urban/suburban training programs in the eastern United States. Measurements: Description of the virtual OSCE process. Fellow and faculty satisfaction overall and for each scenario. Faculty and fellow estimates of frequency of virtual patient encounters in the past year. Methods: The OSCE consisted of 3 scenarios: KRT in kidney failure, urgent KRT in AKI, and KBx. Objective Structured Clinical Examinations were administered in May 2021. Each scenario lasted 20 minutes. The AKI scenario was audio only. Fellows telephoned a simulated patient surrogate for urgent KRT consent. Kidney failure and KBx scenarios were video encounters. Faculty observed while muted/video off. Immediately after the OSCE, fellows and faculty were anonymously surveyed regarding their satisfaction with each scenario, the OSCE overall, and their estimate of outpatient encounters and inpatient KRT counseling done virtually in the preceding year. Results: Seventeen fellows completed the OSCE at 2 centers (3 programs). Sixteen (94%) completed the survey. Almost 94% rated the OSCE as a good/very good approximation of telemedicine encounters. Those satisfied/very satisfied with each scenario are as follow: 100% for AKI, 75% for kidney failure, and 75% for KBx. Two commented that they often did urgent KRT counseling by telephone. Fellows estimated a median 20% (interquartile range: 175, 50%) of counseling for acute inpatient KRT and a median 50% (IQR: 33.75, 70%) of outpatient encounters were virtual in the prior year. Two (regarding the kidney failure and KBx scenarios) indicated they would not have counseled similar outpatients virtually. Limitations: The 15-minute interactions may be too short to allow the encounter to be completed comfortably. A small number of programs and fellows participated, and programs were located in urban/suburban areas on the east coast of the United States. Conclusions: Overall, fellows felt that the OSCE was a good approximation of virtual encounters. The OSCE is an opportunity for fellows to practice telemedicine communication skills.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCanadian Journal of Kidney Health and Disease
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • fellowship
  • nephrology
  • objective structured clinical examination (OSCE)
  • simulation
  • telemedicine


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