A course about the delivery of compassionate care to those suffering life-limiting illnesses was highly appropriate as COVID-19 made its way across the US this spring. “Introduction to Hospice and Palliative Care,” offered by the University of Notre Dame in conjunction with Center for Hospice Care (CHC), used lectures, films and a mock interdisciplinary team meeting to provide an immersive experience for the 62 students who attended the online course.
The four-part class was taught by a team of physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains and bereavement counselors as well as other hospice and palliative care staff members. Community collaborators were also part of this year’s online course. They included Dr. Bunmi Okanlami, the Bicentennial Chair of Palliative Care at the Vera Z. Dwyer College of Health Sciences at IU South Bend; Dr. Mark Sandock, retired physician and board chair of Honoring Choices Indiana® – North Central; and Steve Chupp, Honoring Choices Indiana® – North Central coordinator. While it is open to undergraduate and graduate students in any major, the course is designed primarily for students who are interested in pursuing a career in medicine.
“Educating future health care providers about the hospice concept and introducing them to the benefits hospice and palliative care gives patients facing serious, life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones is at the core of the mission of CHC and the Hospice Foundation (HF),” said HF COO and vice president Mike Wargo. “The collaborative nature of this class also mirrors the hospice approach to care.”
The course covered a variety of topics focused on how hospice and palliative care is provided within the 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. Designed by Dominic Vachon, Director of Ruth M. Hillebrand Center for Compassionate Care in Medicine and Mike Wargo, the one-credit course has been offered six times in a variety of formats over the past nine years.