Caring Conversation in the Henry Ford Physician News Letter, February 2015

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Communicating effectively, with patients, their families and colleagues is a critical skill that fosters improved understanding and joint purpose. The communication program Caring Conversations, was established by a group of Henry Ford physicians in 2012, with the goal of improving conversations between providers and patients.

 The program has roots in the VitalTalk format and accordingly, utilizes highly skilled improvisational actors to create an ideal environment for experiential learning.  Actors and facilitators guide the learner through progressively more complex learning opportunities.  Cases are structured to keep participants on their “learning edge” and are practiced in a high-impact, yet safe-to-experiment environment.

 This program was created out of an understanding that the paradigm of conversations in health care had to shift away from laying out facts and options to one of eliciting values; the only way providers can learn what is truly important to their patients.

Understandably, these discussions can be challenging and require more intense self-knowledge.  Strategies for engaging in these conversations have been formalized as part of the Caring Conversations curriculum.  Though it is understood that there are infinite permutations of these conversations, the skills and roadmaps used to navigate them are specific and are teachable.

 The program offers modular workshops of varying length from half-day to three days, depending on participant needs. Modules include:

o   Recognizing and responding to emotion

o   Forgoing life-sustaining therapy

o   Remapping goals of care

o   Conflict

o   Discussing serious news

o   Teaching in real-time (for faculty only)

 The HFHS Caring Conversations team members are:  Rana Awdish, M.D.; Dana Buick, M.D.; Kristen Chasteen, M.D.; Michael Mendez, M.D.; Maria Kokas, Ph.D.; and Cari Williamson, BA.

Faculty Development Workshop with Henry Ford Health System Leaders


On February 11, 2015, the Caring Conversations Program hosted a one day workshop for Henry Ford Health System Leaders at the Scarab Club in Detroit.  Participants practiced their own communication skills with our simulated family members and saw a demonstration of how to teach communication skils in realtime.

This workshop is ideal for administrators and educators interested in gaining familiarity with the offerings of the Caring Conversations Program.  If you are interested in bringing this program to your group, please email our coordinator: