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Research Article Open Access
Introduction: The importance of learning and understanding palliative and end of life care has become important with today's aging population. Medical schools have been using varied approaches to teach end of life care, however it is often relegated to the hidden curriculum. Providing students with the opportunity to observe and participate in end of life care early on in their medical education has a positive effect on attitudes toward the care of dying persons. The research presented here was conducted by one pair of medical students who were immersed for 48 hours into a palliative and end of life care environment, a local 18 bed Hospice Home. Methods: Qualitative ethnographic and autobiographical research designs were utilized by two second year medical students who were immersed in a hospice home for 48 continuous hours. They worked with an interprofessional team and provided care, pre and post mortem, to patients and families throughout the immersion. Data were in the form of written student journals that included subjective and objective reporting of observations and experiences over 3 stages: (1) pre-immersion (pre-field notes); (2) immersion (field notes); and (3) post-immersion (post-field-notes). Results: Four themes were selected that addressed the research questions and were mutually important to the students. (1) Facing and Talking about Death and Dying; (2) The Power of Touch; (3) Catering to the Patient’s Comfort; and (4) Listening to the Patients/ Reading the Signs. Student experiences and learning were presented through the selection of representative quotes associated with each theme. Conclusion: The 48 Hour Hospice Home Immersion project provided a unique educational and research experience that accelerated their learning about palliative and end of life care for older adults. This time intensive immersion creates a depth of learning and advances medical education in death and dying beyond any classroom experience.
Clinical Geriatrics,Critical Gerontology,Geriatric