Background: Although well-designed instruments to assess communication during medical interviews and complex encounters exist, assessment tools that differentiate between communication, empathy, decision-making, and moral judgment are needed to assess different aspects of communication during situations defined by ethical conflict. To address this need, we developed an assessment tool that differentiates competencies associated with practice in ethically challenging situations. The competencies are grouped into three distinct categories: communication skills, civility and respectful behavior, clinical and ethical judgment and decision-making. Objective: The overall objective of this project is to develop an assessment tool for ethically sensitive scenarios that measures the degree of respect for the attitudes and beliefs of patients and family members, the demands of clinical decision-making, and the success in dealing with ethical conflicts in the clinical context. In this article, we describe the research method we will use during the pilot-test study using the neonatal context to provide validity evidence to support the features of the Assessment Communication Tool for Ethics (ACT4Ethics) instrument. Methods: This study is part of a multiphase project designed according to modern validity principles including content, response process, internal structure, relation to other variables, and social consequences. The design considers threats to validity such as construct underrepresentation and factors exerting nonrandom influence on scores. This study consists of two primary steps: (1) train the raters in the use of the new tool and (2) pilot-test a simulation using an Objective Structured Clinical Examination. We aim to obtain a total of 90 independent assessments based on the performance of 30 trainees rated by 15 trained raters for analysis. A comparison of raters' responses will allow us to compute a measure of interrater reliability. We will additionally compare the results of ACT4Ethics with another existing instrument. Results: This study will take approximately 18 months to complete and the results should be available by September 2019. Conclusions: ACT4Ethics should allow clinician-teachers to assess and monitor the development of competency of trainees' judgments and communication skills when facing ethically sensitive clinical situations. The instrument will also guide the provision of meaningful feedback to ensure that trainees develop specific communication, empathy, decision-making, and ethical competencies.

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Journal of Medical Internet Research
Department of Psychology

Daboval, T. (Thierry), Ward, N. (Natalie), Schoenherr, J.R, Moore, G.P. (Gregory P.), Carew, C. (Caitlin), Lambrinakos-Raymond, A. (Alicia), & Ferretti, E. (Emanuela). (2019). Testing a communication assessment tool for ethically sensitive scenarios: Protocol of a validation study. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 21(5). doi:10.2196/12039