Palliative care communication curriculum: What can students learn from an unfolding case?

Joy Goldsmith, Elaine Wittenberg-Lyles, Sara Shaunfield, Sandra Sanchez-Reilly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Limited attention to palliative care communication training is offered to medical students. In this work, we pursued unfolding case responses and what they indicated about student tendencies to use palliative care communication as well as what medical students can learn from their own reflective practice about palliative care. Findings showed an overwhelming trend for students to avoid palliative care communication or inclusion of topics including advance directives, place of care, family support, and dying. Instead, students relied heavily on the SPIKES protocol, communication that was strategically vague and ambiguous, and discussions that centered on specialty care and referral. In reflecting on their own case study responses, students noted an absence of direct communication about prognosis, no coordination of care, late hospice entry, and patient pain resulting from communication inefficacies. Future research should focus on the development of formal and adaptive curriculum structures to address these communication needs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)236-241
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • communication
  • medical students
  • palliative care curriculum
  • training
  • unfolding case study

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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