Medical EducationCOMMENTARY

48-Hour Hospice Home Immersion Encourages Osteopathic Medical Students to Broaden Their Views on Dying and Death

Marilyn R. Gugliucci, MA, PhD; Divya L. Padmanabhan, OMS IV; and Emily B. Silberstein, OMS IV
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Accepted: May 6, 2019

Published: August 1, 2020

J Osteopath Med; 120(8): 516-523

To augment learning about interprofessional palliative and end-of-life care, the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine immersed 2 second-year osteopathic medical students in an 18-bed acute care hospice home in Scarborough, Maine, for 48 hours. The students worked with an interprofessional staff and independently to provide patient care, family support, and postmortem care. For data collection, students wrote in journals before the immersion experience (prefieldwork), while living in the hospice home (fieldwork), and for 10 days following the immersion experience (postfieldwork). The students recorded their subjective and objective reporting of observations, experiences, feelings, and patient/family encounters. Data analyses included a review of the journals, identifying thematic categorizations, and coding through content analysis. Three themes identified in the students’ journals reflected shared experiences: (1) shifting perspectives, (2) path to family acceptance, and (3) emotional journey. The students learned how to converse with patients and families about end-of-life care while ensuring attainment of patients’ goals. They also learned about the importance of helping patients enjoy life’s simple pleasures like taking them outside to enjoy the sunshine, and they learned to trust themselves when handling emotional and difficult situations. Each student gained confidence in her ability to help guide patients through this stage of life.

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