Compassionate Presence at the Bedside: A Palliative Practicum
This is a Community Engaged Learning course for undergraduate students at all levels. This course is designed to prepare students to critically examine values, attitudes, and contexts that govern perspectives toward and engagements of patients within the context of chronic and serious illness(es). The course prepares students to responsibly and reflectively interact with aging and seriously ill patients in a mentored setting. Using a bio-psycho-socio-spiritual-cultural framework, students learn about the history, evolution, principles and practice of palliative care, how modern medicine has altered the dying experience, and the cost implications of end-of-life care. They will be exposed to the challenges faced by the family members of dying patients, caregiver stress and bereavement.
The class has a strong practicum aspect by which students will be trained to cultivate a compassionate and healing presence at the bedside of the patient. After completing hospice volunteer training, each student will be assigned a small panel of patients. Students will work with an inter-disciplinary team, conduct regular house calls on patients in their panel, and write progress notes, which will become a part of the patients' electronic medical records. Through mentored fieldwork, students will learn the basic competencies of communicating with older adults and seriously ill patients in an effective and compassionate manner. Students will be taught to discuss their panel of patients in class every week using the standard medical clinical rounds approach. Weekly assignments will help students reflect on their interactions with the patients and lessons they learned. Our goal is to train future leaders in the fields of healthcare, law, sociology, public policy, and humanities in the vital area of aging and end-of-life care for diverse Americans.