advance care planning, communication, education, nursing, palliative care, simulation



  1. Parekh de Campos, Amisha
  2. Polifroni, E. Carol


Background: Advance care planning conversations focus on articulating and documenting patients' healthcare goals. These conversations should occur early and iteratively but are often not completed. Clinicians, specifically registered nurses, lack the needed training in advance care planning to have effective conversations; hands-on teaching modalities are necessary to enhance these communication skills.


Objectives: The aim of this study was to increase knowledge and comfort in communication about advance care planning; therefore, a validated and standardized simulation was developed and tested among registered nurses. We examined the feasibility of an advance care planning simulation called Conversations Had at Trying Times to explore changes in knowledge, attitudes, and self-efficacy among registered nurses.


Methods: The National League of Nursing Jeffries simulation theory and Bandura's self-efficacy theory framed the study, which consisted of two stages: (a) simulation development and (b) simulation testing. Construct and content validity guided simulation development; standardization was achieved through International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning standards. Testing consisted of a pilot one-group pretest/posttest.


Results: Conversations Had at Trying Times, a researcher-designed high-fidelity validated simulation, enhanced nurses' communication skills. Thirty-six registered nurses completed the simulation; knowledge, attitudes, and self-efficacy increased pre- to posttest. Postsimulation evaluations confirmed the feasibility of the simulation. The greatest variation in results was among registered nurses with less than a year of experience.


Discussion: The study findings support the feasibility and effectiveness of the Conversations Had at Trying Times simulation in its development and outcome measurements of knowledge, attitudes, and self-efficacy in advance care planning. Simulation is an educational modality underutilized, and Conversations Had at Trying Times is one of the few validated simulations for nurses. Further analysis showed that years of experience was a significant factor. Younger, inexperienced nurses had positive outcomes, but not to the extent of other practicing nurses, which suggests that simulation tailoring is necessary for newer nurses or alternative education modalities need to be explored. In addition, more training in advance care planning communication is needed for newer nurses through nurse residency programs, staff development, and mentorship. Finally, advance care planning communication needs to be addressed in undergraduate education to better prepare new graduate nurses.