Resident reflections on end-of-life education: a mixed-methods study of the 3 Wishes Project
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OBJECTIVE: The objectives of this study were to describe residents' experiences with end-of-life (EOL) education during a rotation in the intensive care unit (ICU), and to understand the possible influence of the 3 Wishes Project. DESIGN: We enrolled dying patients, their families and 1-3 of their clinicians in the 3 Wishes Project, eliciting and honouring a set of 3 wishes to bring peace to the final days of a critically ill patient's life, and ease the grieving process for families. We conducted semistructured interviews with 33 residents who had cared for 50 dying patients to understand their experiences with the project. Interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim, then analysed using a qualitative descriptive approach. SETTING: 21-bed medical surgical ICU in a tertiary care, university-affiliated hospital. RESULTS: 33 residents participated from internal medicine (24, 72.7%), anaesthesia (8, 24.2%) and laboratory medicine (1, 3.0%) programmes in postgraduate years 1-3. 3 categories and associated themes emerged. (1) EOL care is a challenging component of training in that (a) death in the ICU can invoke helplessness, (b) EOL education is inadequate, (c) personal connections with dying patients is difficult in the ICU and (d) EOL skills are valued by residents. (2) The project reframes the dying process for residents by (a) humanising this aspect of practice, (b) identifying that family engagement is central to the dying process, (c) increasing emotional responsiveness and (d) showing that care shifts, not stops. (3) The project offers experiential education by (a) intentional role modelling, (b) facilitating EOL dialogue, (c) empowering residents to care in a tangible way and (d) encouraging reflection. CONCLUSIONS: For residents, the 3 Wishes Project integrated many forms of active learning for residents. Practice-based rather than classroom-based programmes may engage trainees to develop EOL skills transferable to other settings.