Take the HEAT: A Pilot Study on Improving Communication With Angry Families

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© 2016 Elsevier Ireland Ltd Objective Our objective was to evaluate the utility of an educational program consisting of a workshop based on the Take the HEAT communication strategy, designed specifically for addressing patients who are angry, using a novel tool to evaluate residents’ skills in employing this method. Methods 33 first-year pediatric and internal medicine-pediatrics residents participated in the study. The workshop presented the Take the HEAT (Hear, Empathize, Apologize, Take action) strategy of communication. Communication skills were assessed through standardized patient encounters at baseline and post-workshop. Encounters were scored using a novel assessment tool. Results After the workshop, residents’ Take the HEAT communication improved from baseline total average score 23.15 to total average score 25.36 (Z = −3.428, p < 0.001). At baseline, empathy skills were the lowest. Intraclass Correlation Coefficient demonstrated substantial agreement (0.60 and 0.61) among raters using the tool. Conclusion First-year pediatric trainees’ communication with angry families improved with education focused on the Take the HEAT strategy. Poor performance by residents in demonstrating empathy should be explored further. Practice implications This study demonstrates the utility of a brief communications curriculum aimed at improving pediatric residents' ability to communicate with angry families.



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