Teaching Breaking Bad News Using Mixed Reality Simulation

Mark W. Bowyer*, Janice L. Hanson, Elisabeth A. Pimentel, Amy K. Flanagan, Lisa M. Rawn, Anne G. Rizzo, E. Matthew Ritter, Joseph O. Lopreiato

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Background: Our novel teaching approach involved having students actively participate in an unsuccessful resuscitation of a high fidelity human patient simulator with a gun shot wound to the chest, followed immediately by breaking bad news (BBN) to a standardized patient wife (SPW) portrayed by an actress. Methods: Brief education interventions to include viewing a brief video on the SPIKES protocol on how to break bad news, a didactic lecture plus a demonstration, or both, was compared to no pretraining by dividing 553 students into four groups prior to their BBN to the SPW. The students then self-assessed their abilities, and were also evaluated by the SPW on 21 items related to appearance, communication skills, and emotional affect. All received cross-over training. Results: Groups were equal in prior training (2 h)and belief that this was an important skill to be learned. Students rated the experience highly, and demonstrated marked improvement of self-assessed skills over baseline, which was maintained for the duration of the 12-wk clerkship. Additionally, students who received any of the above training prior to BBN were rated superior to those who had no training on several communication skills, and the observation of the video seemed to offer the most efficient way of teaching this skill in a time delimited curriculum. Conclusion: This novel approach was well received and resulted in improvement over baseline. Lessons learned from this study have enhanced our curricular approach to this vital component of medical education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)462-467
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • breaking bad news
  • mixed reality
  • simulation
  • standardized patient


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