In this pilot study, we developed and tested an online educational module for the purpose of teaching optimal shared decision making (SDM) behaviors for physicians in training. We hypothesized that those who received this intervention would show significant improvement in SDM behaviors afterward as compared with those who had not received the intervention.


Pediatric subspecialty fellows (pediatric critical care medicine, neonatology, hematology and oncology, and pulmonology) at the Monroe Carell Jr Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt were eligible to participate, if approved by their respective program directors. Design was a randomized crossover trial of an online educational module to promote behaviors essential to SDM. Participants were randomized by subspecialty. Experts in clinical communication blinded to participants’ study arms evaluated SDM behaviors in video-taped clinical simulations with standardized parent dyads. The study protocol was approved by the Vanderbilt University Institutional Review Board.


Participants receiving the intervention were approximately 40 times more likely to improve their subsequent total score when compared with simply repeating the simulation alone (95% confidence interval, 1.72–919.29; P = .022).


This pilot study demonstrates that an online, interactive module can be an effective way of teaching the skill of SDM to pediatric subspecialty trainees. Tools like this one could help overcome the limitations inherent in currently published SDM resources and meet the need for interventions with demonstrated effectiveness, helping to increase the utilization of SDM skills by providing primary or supplemental education at institutions across the resource spectrum.

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