Palliative care and the arts: vehicles to introduce medical students to patient-centred decision-making and the art of caring
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BACKGROUND: Medical Schools are challenged to improve palliative care education and to find ways to introduce and nurture attitudes and behaviours such as empathy, patient-centred care and wholistic care. This paper describes the curriculum and evaluation results of a unique course centred on palliative care decision-making but aimed at introducing these other important competencies as well. METHODS: The 20 h-long optional course, presented in an art museum, combined different learning methods, including reflections on art, case studies, didactic sessions, personal experiences of faculty, reflective trigger videos and group discussions. A mixed methods approach was used to evaluate the course, including a) a post-course reflective exercise; b) a standardized evaluation form used by the University for all courses; and c) a focus group. RESULTS: Twenty students (2nd to 6th years) participated. The course was rated highly by the students. Their understanding of palliative care changed and misconceptions were dispelled. They came to appreciate the multifaceted nature of decision-making in the palliative care setting and the need to individualize care plans. Moreover, the course resulted in a re-conceptualization of relationships with patients and families, as well as their role as future physicians. CONCLUSIONS: Palliative care decision-making therefore, augmented by the visual arts, can serve as a vehicle to address several competencies, including the introduction of competencies related to being patient-centred and empathic.
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