symp plannersAcademic Health Center Students Focus on Advance Care Planning: A UMN Spring Symposium

How can students begin to integrate advance care planning (ACP) and patient-centered end-of-life care into their medical, nursing, social work and other academic studies?

symp participants
Former UMN faculty member Therese Zink, MD (now Chair of Family Medicine at Wright State University, Dayton, OH) and 2nd year medical student Kyle Tamminga found a way. Over the past six months, they built an interdisciplinary planning committee of students, faculty, and community members with the objective of rolling out a half-day of intensive learning on these critical subjects.

End of Life Planning & Care: An Interprofessional Workshop was attended by baccalaureate, master’s level, and doctoral students. Goals of this educational event were to:
  • Identify essential resource for hospice, palliative care, and advance care planning.
  • Explain what hospice and palliative care are, how they are different, and when each should be utilized.
  • Use pertinent ethical and legal resources when caring for people near the end of life.
  • Effectively communicate with patients and families about their values and options for end of life care.
  • Describe the components of teamwork necessary for effective, compassionate end of life care.
By combining interactive scenarios, role plays, and dialogues on ACP, ethical & legal considerations in end of life care decision-making, effective end-of-life care communications, core interdisciplinary teamwork and more, students engaged in a highly stimulating session and left with new skills and competencies.

This Symposium was student planned and led. Here’s what participants with different backgrounds and experiences had to say about this half-day event.

umn symposium studentsWhat motivated you to attend this ACP and end-of-life care training?
  • “I hoped to gain greater comfort with having end of life care and ACP conversations. I have volunteered working with individuals who have a prognosis of 18 months or less. Spending time and getting to know them changed how I think about health, health care, and death and dying. This special workshop is a good future investment for me.” - Parichay Rudina, MSW Student Year 2
  • “I am interested in becoming a palliative care physician. By coming today, I hoped to find support, contacts, ideas, and inspiration that will keep me focused on future possibilities. This was also a chance for me to rehash, expand on, and discuss in greater depth topics I have studied and become passionate about.” - Ben Rosenstein, Medical Student Year 1
  • “I came today to gain more knowledge about hospice and palliative care. My grandmother died 8 months ago from lung cancer. When she was referred to hospice care, my family was reluctant to have her admitted. They assumed hospice care would not be beneficial - because they believed many of the end-of -life care myths discussed today. Over time, they became more open to the idea of hospice care. Thankfully, she was able to receiving this specialized care during the last four months of her life. “ - Amran Ahmed, Nursing Student Year 1
Why is ACP and end-of-life care important to you?ethics discussion
  • “In my experience, we do not provide important long-term or end-of-life care very well in our current medical system. Unfortunately, I experienced this first hand with the death of my grandfather nearly a decade ago. While
    I didn't realize it at the time, this left a mark that pushed me towards a strong interest in palliative care. I have seen how hard the decisions around EOL care can be. And they become much harder if overlooked. Unfortunately, few physicians are comfortable or prepared to discuss this topic. By reviewing important scenarios and through roleplaying, we can improve the way we provide patient-centered quality of-life and care.”  - Ben Rosenstein, Medical Student Year 1
  • “Being of Somali background, I can reflect on many cultural beliefs and myths about ACP, hospice and palliative care. Our community does not understanding these issues. I believe that education is the key. And I want to be the one to make a difference.” - Amran Ahmed, Nursing Student Year 1
  • “One year prior to beginning medical school, my family dealt with the passing of my grandfather. Over the years, he had been dealing with effects of progressive heart failure. While our family was well aware that his time with us was limited, it was difficult to watch him decline. Our family will forever be thankful to those who took care of my grandfather in his last weeks and days. While they made him comfortable, more importantly they allowed him to have some sort of control in how he lived out his final days. This allowed us all peace of mind. We took comfort in the care and consideration he received.” - Kyle Tamminga, Medical Student Year 2
As a key workshop planner, why was holding this workshop important to you?

tamminga  “When Dr. Therese Zink approached me with the idea for a symposium focused on end of life planning and care, I knew a symposium like this would be a great addition to our curriculum. It would allow students the opportunity to learn more about this important aspect of medicine and to do so in a safe, supportive learning environment. Our future patients only deserve the best of care, but we can only provide that by being proactive with our educational pursuits. It was my hope that efforts like this would help better prepare my colleagues and me to care for our patients at the end of their lives. And in doing that, I could only wish it would allow other families the same peace of mind that was offered to my own family.”  - Kyle Tamminga, Medical Student Year 2  
“End of life care is important for all our patients. Everyone has to eventually confront the reality that they will die. While it’s a difficult realization for anyone, all health care providers need to be advocates for our patient’s best interests. That means we need to have the ability to talk to them about sensitive issues such as death, so they can make important and informed decisions about how they wish to live their lives.”

“Our goal is for students to expand upon what they were able to learn at today’s Symposium. Hopefully, these discussions will continue. This event generated quite a bit of enthusiasm from students - it would be great to see this become an annual event or have other opportunities spin-off from it. End of life planning and care is an important part of medicine, and one that I hope students will continue to explore and address.”  - Therese Zink, MD, MPH, Department of Family Medicine Chair, Wright State University School of Medicine (formerly UMN School of Medicine professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine and Rural Physician Associate Program faculty)
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