A crucial competency for critical care fellowship training is communication skills. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has made teaching these abilities in graduate medical education more difficult. Researchers developed and implemented an innovative, hybrid version of the Critical Care Communication (C3) skills for pulmonary and critical care fellows with virtual and in-person components. To create and test a new hybrid virtual/in-person version of the classic C3 essential illness communication skills course and compare learner outcomes to those of previous classes. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, they updated the C3 system by converting large-group didactic content to an online format that featured both virtual asynchronous and virtual live content. Small-group skills training with trained actors and facilitators continued in person. Participants completed self-assessments compared to historical data from traditional in-person courses that began in 2012. They gathered informal comments from a fraction of the learners after the 2020 course. Participants rated the hybrid version highly, just as they did the regular in-person version. After both versions of the course, learners who reported feeling well prepared were prepared in most communication skills over 90% of the time. The individual course components were regarded as effective or extremely effective by over 90% of participants in both versions of the course. The learners have expressed a preference for virtual didactics over traditional in-person didactics.

Fellows in pulmonary and critical care medicine gave a hybrid version of communication skills training the same rating as the standard in-person version. They’ve laid up a framework for putting together such a course. Based on student comments, they believe that some of the virtual components of this program will outlast the current pandemic.