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interdisciplinary, palliative care, reflections



  1. Phillips, Marcia PhD, RN
  2. Breakwell, Susan DNP, RN
  3. Kim, MinJu PhD, RN
  4. Faut-Callahan, Margaret PhD, RN


The purpose of this study was to gain insight into how a brief clinical observation encounter contributed to students' experiences in an interdisciplinary palliative care course. This course was required of all graduate nursing students and was available as an elective for medical and other healthcare professions students at a healthcare sciences university. The students were required to spend approximately 8 to 12 hours attending interdisciplinary team meetings or accompanying a team on rounds and patient visits.


The students' summary narratives of their observation experience were analyzed in this qualitative study that focused on six categories of feedback: (1) patients' and families' reactions, (2) communication issues with patients and families, (3) how the palliative care team speaks with the patient and family, (4) communication within the interdisciplinary team, (5) students' reflections, and (6) students' suffering.


This study demonstrated that a clinical observation activity can be a valuable introduction to palliative care principles for healthcare students in an interdisciplinary course. Students benefited from gaining insight into family/practitioner communications regarding difficult issues, interdisciplinary roles and cooperation, and application of palliative care principles to clinical practice. Further research is required to identify appropriate interventions to deal with student distress resulting from such early career clinical encounters.