Learning to Bring Comfort to Patients and Families Through Palliative and Hospice Simulations

Learning to Bring Comfort to Patients and Families Through Palliative and Hospice Simulations

Among all the important jobs nurses do, taking care of people who are very sick and nearing the end of their lives is one of the most meaningful. When someone is close to passing away, the talks nurses have with them and their families can be tough, delicate, and sometimes lead to disagreements.

These talks can make a big and lasting difference. And because more and more people are growing older, this type of care is becoming a bigger part of what nurses do.
Now, some good news.

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In recent years, the ways we help people in palliative and hospice care have gotten much better. Before, someone who was nearing the end of their life might have had to go to a special place called a hospice. But now, more hospitals and health centers offer this kind of care right where the patient is.

But there are still things that are hard.

Learning to Bring Comfort to Patients and Families Through Palliative and Hospice Simulations

When nurses are learning, they don’t often get to practice having these important talks with patients and families in real situations. Learning in a classroom is important, but it’s not enough.

Because of this problem, Shadow Health has been making new computer programs that let nursing students practice taking care of people who need palliative and hospice care. More than 700,000 nursing students use these programs.

We talked to three nurse teachers at Elsevier who helped make these new computer programs.

“Helping someone and their family when they’re facing the end of their life is a really special thing,” says Brittny. “It’s something that the family will remember forever.”

“When I was learning, we only had one class about death and dying,” says Cheryl. “But now, we teach about hospice and palliative care, which I think is great.”

“More people can get this kind of care than before, because we’ve made it more available,” says Amanda. “Hospice and palliative care aren’t just for the person who’s sick; they’re for the whole family, to help them through tough times.”

Learning to Bring Comfort to Patients and Families Through Palliative and Hospice Simulations

Regina Walker Shadow Health Assessment

Shadow Health has made three computer programs that focus on palliative and hospice care:
Focused Exam: End of Life with Regina Walker, where students will have a conversation with Mrs. Walker about hospice care, spiritual considerations, and pain management.


Documentation – Tina Jones Neurological Shadow Health assessment


Samuel Green Shadow Health Assessment

Patient Care Rounds: Postmortem Care with Samuel Green, in which students will assess a patient who is expected to pass away and conduct appropriate interventions.

“Regina was introduced in 2017, offering nursing students a chance to start talking about hospice care,” said Brittny.

Noah Caputo school age sick visit dermatology shadow health Subjective data Collection

Vandana Kumar Shadow Health Assessment

Complex Assessment: End Stage Heart Failure with Vandana Kumar, where students will speak with Mrs. Kumar about her request for hospice care and advocate for her wishes with her immediate family.

“Vandana was added to Shadow Health last year, expanding the discussions as students interact with her son,” she explained.

“They can describe what palliative care means and face challenges from other family members, a common scenario.”

“Our latest simulation, Samuel, is nearing the end of life, surrounded by family. Students learn about end-of-life issues like religious considerations and supporting the family,” Brittny added.

“These talks are crucial to rehearse in a safe setting because facing them as a new nurse can be nerve-wracking,” Cheryl emphasized. “Repeated practice makes these difficult conversations easier.”

The Shadow Health team collaborated with experts to ensure the simulated conversations are accurate and realistic.

“Palliative care is about focusing on a patient’s quality of life rather than the number of days left,” explained Dr. June Llerena, Assistant Teaching Professor and Simulation Curriculum Director at the University of Tampa. “It’s about respecting their wishes and ensuring comfort.”

Using Shadow Health simulations helps nursing students gain knowledge and empathy.

Amanda summarized, saying, “This is the time to learn when to show empathy and when to step back, showing patients that you’re actively listening.”

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