Joint Effort Leads to Introductory Hospice Care Course at Notre Dame

Course designed to provide undergraduate students with an introductory understanding of hospice and palliative care prepares students for end-of-life issues.

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Center for Hospice Care Chief Medical Director Dr. Gregory Gifford presents to the class.

Whether or not my future directs me toward palliative care, the lessons I learned have great universal applicability among all health professions and I truly feel that I will be better able to serve patients as a doctor due to the knowledge I gained here.

South Bend, IN (PRWEB) April 03, 2013

The University of Notre Dame is world-renowned for the education it provides. Center for Hospice Care is in the top 5% of US hospices in the number of patients served. These organizations recently teamed up to offer a unique, one-credit hour course for Notre Dame students called, “Introduction to Hospice and Palliative Care.”

Class organizers were once again pleasantly surprised to see so many students (95 in all) enroll in the all-day Saturday class. The course was first offered on campus in the Fall Semester 2011 and included more than 80 students.

The class, which was designed to provide undergraduate students with an introductory understanding of hospice and palliative care, included students from a number of pre-professional studies program with the vast majority of them being those particularly interested in pursuing careers in medicine.

“Educating future health care providers about the hospice concept and introducing them to the benefits hospice and palliative care provides those facing serious, life-limiting illnesses is at the core of the mission of The Hospice Foundation,” said Mike Wargo, COO of the organization. “The collaborative nature of this class is a direct reflection of the hospice approach to care as well.”

The daylong course covered a variety of topics focusing on how hospice and palliative care is given in the current healthcare system. Students were also given an introduction in the compassionate interpersonal communication skills required in caring for those in need of palliative care or who are dying.

The class was taught by an interdisciplinary team that included physicians, nurses, social workers and bereavement counselors as well as other hospice and palliative care staff.

Designed by Dominic Vachon, Director of Ruth M. Hillebrand Center for Compassionate Care in Medicine and Mike Wargo, the course included films, panel discussions, lectures and a mock interdisciplinary team meeting.

Vachon noted, "This collaboration between Center for Hospice Care and Notre Dame has led to what appears to be a transformative educational experience for these students, many of whom will go into medicine. Despite the length of the day and the seriousness of the topic, students overwhelmingly are grateful for what they receive from the staff of CHC who are the main faculty for the course. They spontaneously tell us in their papers and comments how much this was helpful for them and how helpful the material will be for their personal and professional lives."

"While it was admittedly quite a long day, I gained invaluable insight into a field I initially knew almost nothing about, and I feel that whether or not my future directs me toward palliative care, the lessons I learned have great universal applicability among all health professions and I truly feel that I will be better able to serve patients as a doctor due to the knowledge I gained here," said one of the students attending the class.

Topics included among the day’s 12 different presentations were: Understanding the Hospice Model of Care; The Physician’s Role in Hospice and Palliative Medicine; The Hospice Nurse as Care Coordinator; Palliative Care: My Journey as an Oncologist and the Grieving Process.


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