The 3rd International E-Symposium on Communication in Health Care
"Advancing Frontiers of Health Communication Research, Education and Practice during the Pandemic"
Difficult conversations in healthcare: Concepts for the Covid pandemic
The fast-evolving COVID-19 pandemic presents unique and complex challenges to humanistic
communication and relationships in healthcare throughout the world. This presentation will explore: (a)
ethical challenges, resource challenges, and moral distress during the pandemic; (b) important concepts
in healthcare communication including understanding others’ perspectives, relationship-centered
interactions, reflection and self-awareness, everyday ethics, and attention to values made visible
through skilled communication; and (c) research results from a multi-site national study that examined
what sustains physicians in practicing and teaching humanistic care. We will briefly consider how
healthcare professionals may find a path in challenging clinical environments during the COVID-19
pandemic by attending to values, and how these may help to guide decisions in relationships with
patients and their families during seemingly impossible situations.
Elizabeth A. Rider, MSW, MD, a pediatrician and medical educator, is founder and Director, Boston
Children’s Hospital / Harvard Medical School Faculty Fellowships in Humanism and Professionalism and
in Interprofessional Leadership. She was Director of Academic Programs at the former Institute for
Professionalism and Ethical Practice for 12 years. She leads the international course, “Difficult
Conversations in Healthcare” and others, and teaches for the Harvard Macy Institute Program for
Educators in the Health Professions. Current research includes national projects exploring components
of humanistic medical education and practice and their association with learning environments,
leadership, and organizational culture. Former Medicine Academy Chair of the National Academies of
Practice, Dr. Rider has been recognized internationally for her work to restore attention to core values
and skilled communication in healthcare.