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OncoTalk Legacy: IntensiveTalk and GeriTalk

Tony Back
What a blessing for the field of palliative care when brilliant pioneers in communication, bioethics, and research put their heads together and created OncoTalk.  This work, led by Tony Back, James Tulsky, and Bob Arnold, may be the single greatest achievement in the area of communication in palliative care.  We should be proud!  (Tony Back was recently awarded the Alpha Omega Alpha Professionalism award in recognition of his work).

The focus of this brief post is on the legacy of OncoTalk.  Oncotalk has also now inspired spin-offs: GeriTalk, IntensiveTalk, and DomesticTalk.

A brief blurb about each follows.

GeriTalk (source: Amy Kelley)

Physicians who care for older adults with serious or life-limiting illness often face complex communication challenges. The Mount Sinai Geritalk program is an innovative educational intervention focused on teaching, practicing and reflecting on effective communication skills. The program, modeled on the successful Oncotalk program, is the first communication skills program of its kind designed specifically for Geriatric and Palliative Medicine fellows. The program was initially piloted with Geriatric and Palliative Medicine fellows at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and since 2010 has been a key component of the fellowships’ communication skills curricula. Geritalk is offered annually to all first-year Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine fellows. The 2-day immersion course uses short didactics, structured skills practice, and reflection on action. The bulk of the course takes place in small groups with approximately 5 learners per group. Each small group is led by a faculty facilitator with specialized training to help each learner in the group identify her own strengths, gaps, and “learning edge” and then to help focus that learner on these areas during the skills practice using simulated patients (or family members).

Course Goals:
  • To improve fellows’ communication skills through practice and reflection 
  • To establish a common language around communication skills so that fellows can more effectively teach about these skills through role modeling, didactics and reflection with learners.
If you are interested in setting up Geritalk for yourself or your learners, please contact Amy Kelley.  If you have access to the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, you can read this article.

IntensiveTalk (source: Bob Arnold)

IntensiveTalk is a course that enables faculty to develop a communication skills curriculum for critical care fellows at their home institution. This unique faculty development experience is based on existing innovative and evidence-based models that meet, and beat, ACGME requirements. The IntensiveTalk Investigators piloted the course at the University of Pittsburgh, and we are now offering this new course as a subsidized dissemination project. It has been endorsed by the American Thoracic Society, American College of Chest Physicians and the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

The program consists of:

  • Two three-day meetings over six months in Pittsburgh to train faculty to run a course using simulated families. We are asking that each site send a palliative care and an intensive care faculty member to share the teaching. The dates for the course are Nov 27-29 2012 and May 1-3, 2013. 
  • We will support faculty members’ teaching by offering distance learning opportunities and a site visit when they teach the course to their fellows.

Those interested in IntensiveTalk should visit the website, www.intensivetalk.org

DomesticTalk (source: me)

Sometimes bringing home the work language doesn't work, as exemplified by this video.  I tend to think that these strategies are more helpful than harmful, but sometimes they do backfire.

If you're still reading, I hope you realize that, unlike the other terrific offspring of OncoTalk discussed above, DomesticTalk doesn't exist!

by: Alex Smith

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