Objectives The purpose of this study was to examine clerkship students' perspective towards delivering death notifications. An additional purpose of the study was to identify the learning needs of students following a role play exercise in delivering death notifications.
Methods Participants in this study were fourth-year medical students (N=86) ranging in age from 22-43 years with a mean age of 27.1 years. There were 28 women and 58 men. Questionnaires, consisting of open-ended questions and a visual analogue scale (VAS), were administered before and after the "Marathon Death" role play exercise.
Results Six categories emerged from the analysis of the questionnaire: communication, emotions, self-development, exercise-related, learning opportunities and tools and strategies. Results from the visual analogue scale showed that the majority of students (60%) needed to practice how to deliver difficult messages in death notifications. After taking part in the role-playing activity with video playback, where the students had an opportunity to view, discuss and reenact scenarios, seventy-six out of 78 (97.4%) stated that they had received training in communication skills. The responding students rated the exercise as highly relevant, scoring it a mean of 91 on a VAS scale of 0 to 100 mm.
Conclusions Students are not competent in the communication skills required for delivering death notifications. A majority of students expressed a need for training in communication skills. The "Marathon Death" role play exercise provides initial training and emotional support for delivering a death notification. However, further empirical studies are required about the effect of the exercise on delivering the notification of death.
2011. Vol. 2, 24-29 p.