Being a Hospice Volunteer Influenced Medical Students' Comfort with Dying and Death: A pilot study
Department of Anesthesia & Perioperative Medicine, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, University of Western Ontario, 339 Windermere Road, UH-B10-123, London, Ontario, Canada N6A 5A5.Journal of palliative care (Impact Factor: 0.68). 09/2012; 28(3):149-56.
Being comfortable with death and communicating with patients near the end of life are important attributes in palliative care. We developed a hospice volunteer program to teach these attitudes and skills to preclinical medical students. Using a mixed-methods approach, validated surveys measured participants' and non-participants fear of death and communication apprehension regarding dying. Journals and focus groups examined participants' subjective experiences as their patient relationships evolved. Survey scores were significantly lower for participant hospice volunteers, indicating lower levels of death anxiety and communication apprehension regarding dying. An explanatory framework, using journals and focus groups, captured participants' sense of development over time into three categories: challenges, learning, and growth. This pilot project provides insight into the medical students' experiential learning as they participate in our hospice volunteer program.
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ABSTRACT: Studies conducted on hospice volunteers' characteristics and experiences have been cross-sectional. We conducted a prospective study to examine changes in the volunteer experience over time in a cohort of volunteers during the first year of a new residential hospice. Eighty-two active volunteers completed an online baseline survey, and of these, 39 completed a follow-up survey at 6 months. The survey included measures of motivations to volunteer, satisfaction with role and with the organization, and fear of death and dying. Repeated measures analyses indicated that motivations to volunteer remained stable over time while volunteer satisfaction increased with time. Baseline level of fears of death and dying varied by age, volunteer role, and motivations to volunteer and decreased at 6 months. Volunteering in a residential hospice tends to be a satisfying experience that helps to allay fears about death and dying. © The Author(s) 2014.
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ABSTRACT: Abstract Background: Recent focus on palliative and end-of-life care has led medical schools worldwide to enhance their palliative care curricula. Objective: The objective of the study was to describe recent curricular innovations in palliative care for medical students, evaluate the quality of studies in the field, and inform future research and curricular design. Methods: The authors searched Medline, Scopus, and Educational Resource Information Center (ERIC) for English-language articles published between 2007 and 2013 describing a palliative care curriculum for medical students. Characteristics of the curricula were extracted, and methodological quality was assessed using the Medical Education Research Study Quality Instrument (MERSQI). Results: The sample described 48 curricula in 12 countries. Faculty were usually interdisciplinary. Palliative care topics included patient assessment, communication, pain and symptom management, psychosocial and spiritual needs, bioethics and the law, role in the health care system, interdisciplinary teamwork, and self-care. Thirty-nine articles included quantitative evaluation, with a mean MERSQI score of 9.9 (on a scale of 5 to 18). The domain most likely to receive a high score was data analysis (mean 2.51 out of 3), while the domains most likely to receive low scores were validity of instrument (mean 1.05) and outcomes (mean 1.31). Conclusions: Recent innovations in palliative care education for medical students represent varied settings, learner levels, instructors, educational modalities, and palliative care topics. Future curricula should continue to incorporate interdisciplinary faculty. Studies could be improved by integrating longitudinal curricula and longer-term outcomes; collaborating across institutions; using validated measures; and assessing higher-level outcomes including skills, behaviors, and impact on patient care.
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