Associate Professor Tracey Thurnes and Dianne Person, director of the Anatomical Gift Program presented “Better End-of-Life Conversations: A Mutually Beneficial Educational Experience.”
Tracey Thurnes, associate professor in the Department of Physician Assistant Studies, and Dianne Person, director of the Anatomical Gift Program presented at the Association for Death Education and Counseling’s Annual Conference held virtually April 6-10.
Thurnes and Person presented “Better End-of-Life Conversations: A Mutually Beneficial Educational Experience” at the conference. The Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC) conference is considered the premier educational, interdisciplinary global meeting for professionals working in the field of death, dying and bereavement: mental health professionals, social workers, counselors, educators, clergy, funeral directors, hospital and hospice personnel, and psychologists attend the conference annually.
The Physician Assistant Studies Program, Anatomical Gift Program and the Center for Design Thinking have worked together to organize and hold Crucial Conversations in Health Care for two years now. The interprofessional event includes second year PA students, practitioners in the field of death and dying, and voluntary local community members. The annual educational session provides skills to give voice and meaning to life’s most crucial conversations.
The premise for this work originated from Person’s close work with the community where she came to the realization that community members were often not prepared to have difficult conversations around death and dying with their families and their healthcare providers. As a professor in the PA program, Thurnes shared that students, providers, and communities often face a host of systemic challenges and an overall lack of training for engaging in these difficult conversations.
In collaboration with Danielle Lake, irector of Design Thinking, Thurnes and Person chose to use design thinking as the framework for the session to guide participants in a collaborative process that is used for generating and testing innovations to complex problems. Evaluations completed by students and community members provided supporting data that Crucial Conversations in Healthcare appropriated mutual and reciprocal learning with both students and community members feeling empowered and better prepared for fluent communication under challenging circumstances.
Based on these strong outcomes it was determined that Thurnes and Person have established a format for introducing difficult conversations across a variety of disciplines that the School of Health Sciences hopes to expand upon.