Dr. Warren Lewin
Throughout a physicians’ medical training and residency, communication skills training to learn how to discuss what matters most with patients and families who are facing serious and life-threatening illnesses is minimal. Dr. Warren Lewin, a family physician with a focused practice in palliative care at Toronto Western Hospital is looking to change that.
“These are not palliative skills, they are core communication skills to support everyday conversations that all clinicians need to have to help them to deliver high-quality care.”
Through the creation of The Conversation Lab, Dr. Lewin is helping to ensure that all clinicians, regardless of their speciality are prepared to have these critical conversations with their patients and their families.
The Conversation Lab is a multipronged education initiative at University Health Network (UHN) that includes in-person and virtual half-day workshops, one-to-one bedside coaching sessions and practical conversation guides adapted alongside patient partners that provide clinicians with strategies and structure for leading these important conversations. The tools provide a framework for health care professionals to confidently discuss a new diagnosis, progression of disease, patient and family values, uncertain prognoses and respond with empathy to build trust between the patients, caregivers, families and their health-care team.
Currently, more than 450 clinicians, including family doctors, neurosurgeons, critical care physicians, nurses and allied-health professionals have been trained through this program by educators affiliated with the Temerty Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto and frontline health care workers at UHN. In addition, over 600 people have accessed the online modules or program tools.
In terms of what is next for The Conversation Lab, Dr. Lewin’s aspiration is that every clinician that is onboarded at UHN will be trained through this initiative and will develop these critical skills.
“Our goal is to have every single person in our hospital network trained in some capacity. Although we know that the hands-on workshops often work best to consolidate learning, the online modules that clinicians can access anytime, teach the most important skills that we want all our clinicians to have, and is a great place to start to build foundational skill.”
Dr. Lewin’s vital work was recently recognized through the OCFP’s annual awards program. He was one of five family doctors awarded the 2023 Award of Excellence by the Ontario College of Family Physicians.