Clinical Challenges in Surgical Palliative Care: Communication Skills for Difficult Conversations

EP. 747May. 06, 202435:47
Palliative Care
Palliative Care
Your patient was in a terrible car crash and is currently intubated with multiple traumatic injuries that will need surgery. Family has just arrived and all they’ve heard is that he has a broken leg. How do you share this serious news with family? What do you do when they become angry, cry or bombard you with questions that you don’t have answers to? Join the surgical palliative care team from the University of Washington as we role play a difficult conversation with a standardized patient. We will identify common challenges that arise and discuss key skills to navigate these situations.


Dr. Katie O’Connell (@katmo15) is an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Washington. She is a trauma surgeon, palliative care physician, director of surgical palliative care, and founder of the Advance Care Planning for Surgery clinic at Harborview Medical Center, Seattle, WA.

Dr. Ali Haruta is a PGY7 current palliative care fellow at the University of Washington, formerly a UW general surgery resident and Parkland trauma/critical care fellow. 

Dr. Lindsay Dickerson (@lindsdickerson1) is a PGY5 general surgery resident and current surgical oncology research fellow at the University of Washington.

Dr. Virginia Wang is a PGY2 general surgery resident at the University of Washington.

Learning Objectives:

·      Identify common pitfalls encountered during difficult conversations
·      Learn how to synthesize complex medical information and construct a succinct headline statement to deliver a digestible take-home message
·      Develop skills to respond to emotional cues using empathetic statements


·      “Responding to Emotion.” Vitaltalk. Accessed March 4, 2024.
·      “Serious News.” Vitaltalk. Accessed March 4, 2024.

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