HeArt of Medicine: An Interdisciplinary Workshop Series to Teach Medical and Nursing Students End-Of-Life Care through Visual and Narrative Art
The HeArt of Medicine (HOM) is a student-run, interdisciplinary initiative that started in 2013 to prepare medical and nursing students to become comfortable with end-of-life care and to collaborate in a clinical setting. Each year, the HeArt of Medicine puts on a 3-part workshop series that uses visual and narrative arts as a pathway to encountering death and dying. Experts from the fields of palliative and hospice care serve as speakers and small group discussion leaders at each session.
The first workshop takes place at an art museum and focuses on developing the language of discussing death and dying using art as an intermediary. Participants are guided through various pieces of art that tackle the themes of death and dying by expert docents and are provided a vocabulary to discuss end-of-life care. Following the observation of various art media, participants partake in small group discussions to reflect on the art and their own personal experiences with death and dying. The second workshop focuses on the art of storytelling and compassionate listening through speakers across the disciplines of nursing, medicine, and chaplaincy telling personal stories about caring for patients at the end of life. Participants learn about what they may expect to see, feel, and do as they care for dying patients. The third workshop gives students a chance to practice holding difficult end-of-life conversations in a safe learning environment with standardized patients. Students are first given a framework to format these difficult conversations with experienced clinicians.
The HeArt of Medicine has been a well-regarded workshop series that students look forward to each year. Having end-of-life conversations and handling a patient’s death have consistently been cited as difficult topics for students when they begin their clinical rotations. The HeArt of Medicine gives students skills to work with patients at the end of life in a compassionate, interdisciplinary, and patient-centered way. Our goal has been to establish the importance of end-of-life conversations, expand student knowledge about palliative care, and increase interdisciplinary learning between medical and nursing students.
Author: Amber Young, Medical Student, University of Virginia