Anesthetic induction and other procedures performed by anesthetists are potentially stressful for children. Pediatric anesthetists use communication to rapidly establish rapport and engagement with children and reduce anxiety and discomfort. Communication in pediatric anesthesia is increasingly topical, but there is limited discussion regarding which specific techniques should be taught to trainees.
The aim of this research was to identify which communication techniques used locally by pediatric anesthetic specialists, trainees and nurses are viewed as the most effective and valuable to teach trainees.
Qualitative semi-structured focus groups (7) and in-depth interviews (7) were used to gather data from 30 specialist pediatric anesthetists, trainees and assistants from a major tertiary pediatric anesthetic department. Inductive and deductive thematic data analysis explored communication techniques used locally.
The research identified the range of communication techniques being utilized to establish rapport and engage with children, including methods for distraction and focusing attention such as storytelling, guided imagery and positive suggestions. Thematic analysis revealed a series of core overarching principles for successful application, using social skills within an adaptable, competent, child-centered approach. Drawing on the experiences of specialist practitioners and trainees, teaching these communication techniques would ideally employ an interactive approach involving both modelling and specific communication education with focus on developing communication skills via experiential learning using self-reflection and feedback.
Within the range of communication techniques being utilized by pediatric anesthetists exist a series of core principles that are essential to engaging and building rapport with children. Focusing on the importance of these common core elements in trainee education, in addition to the range of techniques available, may provide a pragmatic framework for centers providing pediatric anesthesia to consider when designing their trainee curriculum.

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