Does emotional intelligence predict breaking bad news skills in pediatric interns? A pilot study

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BACKGROUND: While both patients and physicians identify communication of bad news as an area of great challenge, the factors underlying this often complex task remain largely unknown. Emotional intelligence (EI) has been positively correlated with good general communication skills and successful leadership, but there is no literature relating EI to the delivery of bad news. PURPOSE: Our objectives were to determine: 1) performance of first-year pediatric residents in the delivery of bad news in a standardized patient (SP) setting; and 2) the role of EI in these assessments. Our hypothesis was that pediatric trainees with higher EI would demonstrate more advanced skills in this communication task. METHODS: Forty first-year residents participated. Skill in bad news delivery was assessed via SP encounters using a previously published assessment tool (GRIEV_ING Death Notification Protocol). Residents completed the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory (ESCI) as a measure of EI. RESULTS: Residents scored poorly on bad news delivery skills but scored well on EI. Intraclass correlation coefficients indicated moderate to substantial inter-rater reliability among raters using the delivering bad news assessment tool. However, no correlation was found between bad news delivery performance and EI. CONCLUSIONS: We concluded that first-year pediatric residents have inadequate skills in the delivery of bad news. In addition, our data suggest that higher EI alone is not sufficient to effectively deliver death news and more robust skill training is necessary for residents to gain competence and acquire mastery in this important communication domain.




Reed, S., Kassis, K., Nagel, R., Verbeck, N., Mahan, J. D., & Shell, R. (2015). Does emotional intelligence predict breaking bad news skills in pediatric interns? A pilot study. Medical Education Online, 20, 24245.

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