Elaine C. Meyer, Ph.D., R.N. is a nurse and clinical psychologist with over twenty-five years of experience in pediatric and neonatal intensive care settings. She is Co-Founder and Former Director of the Institute for Professionalism and Ethical Practice at Boston Children’s Hospital and Associate Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Meyer’s teaching and academic work has focused on patient and family perspectives, pediatric end-of-life care, challenging conversations in healthcare, the ethics of everyday clinical encounters, and humanism across the spectrum of healthcare. She has designed creative and comprehensive psychological services for children and their families, emphasizing the priorities that families themselves have identified. Her teaching efforts have promoted innovative simulation-based interprofessional communication and relational learning, nationally and internationally. To improve the emotional standard of care of patients and families, she has championed simulation-based educational learning to encourage clinicians, across disciplines and experience levels, be more direct, honest and confident when engaging in challenging healthcare conversations. She gave a successful TEDx Talk entitled, “On Being Present, Not Perfect” that has earned nearly 50,000 views and receives over 1,000 hits monthly. Dr. Meyer has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles and chapter, and presents widely at national and international conferences. She is a newly inducted Fellow of the Society for Simulation in Healthcare. She reviews books for the Journal of the American Medical Association and serves as an Associate Editor for Simulation in Healthcare.
Clinical Expertise and Innovation
Trained in nursing and clinical psychology, I have worked for over twenty-five years in neonatal and pediatric critical care settings focusing on parental perspectives and priorities for care, pediatric end-of-life care, challenging conversations in healthcare, the ethics of everyday clinical encounters, and humanism in health care. My clinical innovation and scholarship have enhanced the quality of family-provider communication and relationships, improved delivery of psychosocial services, and deepened the emotional standard of care. My work has promoted meaningful clinical practice changes including sibling visitation in critical care settings, parent presence during invasive procedures and resuscitation, and interprofessional teamwork. I have contributed to pioneering the role of pediatric psychology in neonatal and pediatric intensive care settings. For two decades, I have co-developed and offered innovative parent retreat, entitled Reflecting on the Journey, for families of children and young adults diagnosed on the autism spectrum. My clinical teaching efforts, research, and scholarship have promoted innovative simulation-based interprofessional communication and relational learning, nationally and internationally. As Co-Founder and Former Director of the Institute for Professionalism and Ethical Practice at Boston Children’s Hospital, I have overseen the training of over 6,000 interprofessional learners through the Program to Enhance Relational and Communication Skills (PERCS) across Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School teaching hospitals, nationally and internationally. My leadership has spawned international footholds and programs for relational learning in Italy, Australia, Germany, New Zealand, Peru and Argentina. I have been a thought leader for a range of timely professional issues such as the use of deception in simulation education, interprofessional education, clinicians’ emotional engagement during challenging healthcare conversations, and the ethics of everyday clinical encounters.
Teaching and Educational Leadership
My clinical work and scholarship in pediatric critical care and end-of-life care have contributed to greater understanding of parental perspectives and priorities to improve care, formal and informal social support networks, psychosocial care delivery models, family conferences, and intimate bedside conversations. My work with families whose children have succumbed in the pediatric intensive care setting helped delineate factors influencing parental end-of-life decision-making such as perceived quality of life, likelihood of improvement, child’s wishes, and perception of suffering. I have championed the priorities that families place on honest communication and trustworthy relationships, ready access to providers, emotional expression and support by providers, preservation of the integrity of the parent-child relationship, and integration of faith in clinical practice. I have designed creative, responsive psychosocial care delivery models to meet the needs of infants, children and their families, conducted research to inform the architectural design of critical care settings, taught interprofessional healthcare providers, and published widely to promote patient and family-centered clinical practice change. Overarching my clinical work and innovation, I have been guided by the principles of empathic engagement, family-centered care and advocacy to effect meaningful cultural change addressing the problems and solutions as perceived by the patients and families themselves, rather than as hypothesized by professionals.
My teaching efforts have amplified my innovative clinical contributions. To improve the emotional standard of care of patients and families, I have designed a simulation-based educational paradigm to encourage clinicians, across disciplines and experience levels, be more honest, skillful and confident when engaging in challenging healthcare conversations. My collaborative research endeavors have successfully established the efficacy and cross-cultural applicability of the educational paradigm and workshops that have now been adapted to the fields of anesthesiology, neonatal and pediatric critical care, palliative care, radiology, general surgery, ophthalmology, and neurology. As a result of the workshops, interprofessional clinicians report long-term improvements in their preparation to hold difficult conversations, more confidence, enhanced communication and relational skills, and decreased anxiety. The educational paradigm has been customized for a wide range of challenging conversations including conveying serious diagnoses, informed consent, parent presence during invasive procedures and resuscitation, spirituality, organ donation, and disclosing adverse medical outcomes. Since conversations about religion and spirituality can be stressful for clinicians, since 2010, together with chaplaincy colleagues, I have pioneered, evaluated and launched a successful simulation-based curriculum designed to train healthcare providers as spiritual generalists to be more capable and confident when assessing and addressing issues of spirituality and religion in everyday clinical encounters. Since 2011, I have been instrumental in co-developing, teaching, and evaluating a communication curriculum for radiologists, originally funded by the Radiological Society for North America, focused on conveying serious news, apology and disclosure after adverse medical outcome, and radiation safety. In 2012, I was awarded a grant entitled, Disclosure & Apology: Leveraging Simulation for Skill-Building & Organizational Change to develop a simulation-based educational approach to apology and disclosure conversations in the aftermath of adverse medical outcomes, some of the most challenging conversations that can be experienced by patients and clinicians alike. In 2015, I was instrumental in securing a major CRICO grant entitled Aligning Family-Staff Expectations in Surgical Informed Consent that will examine parents’ and surgeons’ perspectives, and educate surgeons in the art of aligning expectations for surgery and conducting informed consent. Since 2016, I have served as an affiliated faculty member at the Center for Bioethics at Harvard Medical School. In 2018, I was inducted as a Fellow in the Society for Simulation in Healthcare. Thus, I have adapted the PERCS educational paradigm across multiple subspecialties with sensitivity and success to help humanize the clinical world- one conversation at a time. Most recently, my research and scholarship has focused on clinicians’ emotions during difficult healthcare conversations, and how such emotions can influence patient-provider relationships and clinical care. The first two publications of the series have been honored as best papers of the International Conference on Communication in Healthcare and published in special conference issues of Patient Education and Counseling. I have been recognized with teaching awards for medical humanism, educational film production, and innovative scholarship in medical education.
Significant Supporting Activities
To promote dissemination of my work, I have published over 100 peer-reviewed articles and chapters, been honored to teach as Visiting Professor at universities across multiple subspecialty departments, and delivered presentations and keynote addresses at national and international conferences. In 2014, I was successful in securing funding to lead a collaborative partnership entitled Advancing Relational Learning Worldwide to Improve Patient Safety and Quality between the Institute for Professionalism and Ethical Practice and OPENPediatrics to evaluate the translation of the live communication and relational learning workshop format to an on-line interactive moderated workshop approach, specifically addressing issues of apology and disclosure after adverse medical outcomes. In an innovative effort to foster improved healthcare conversations and empathic engagement, and to educate worldwide, I delivered a successful TEDx Talk entitled On Being Present, Not Perfect that has exceeded nearly 50,000 views and earns over 1,000 views monthly. The Talk has been successfully incorporated into nursing and medical school curricula across the country and internationally. Through these innovative teaching efforts and social media platforms, the clinical and educational potential is limitless to improve challenging healthcare conversations and advance the emotional standard of care. Since 2015, I have served as a volunteer and member of the board of directors for Hope Hospice and Palliative Care in Rhode Island. In addition, since 2017, I have served as a member of the Ministry and Council Committee of the Providence Monthly Meeting of Friends (Quakers).
In summary, my clinical career, diverse teaching, and academic scholarship have emphasized patient and family priorities for care, end-of-life decision-making, and interprofessional communication and relational skills across healthcare boundaries in an effort to promote humanism and ethical integrity in healthcare.