Perelman School of Medicine launches four-year palliative care program

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Perelman School of Medicine, located at the south end of Penn Campus Credit: Sophia Leung

The Perelman School of Medicine launched a new four-year program palliative care program teach students how to care for terminally ill patients by integrating simulation learning and clinical training.

Penn is one of the few medical schools in the nation to offer a strong four-year program in palliative care. Treatment aims to reduce the stress severity of disease symptoms and is crucial to improving patients’ quality of life.

“Good palliative care practices lead to better physicians and patient care,” Suzanne Rose, senior associate dean for medical education at the medical school, wrote in a press release.

The new program is called “CARE-7”, which stands for Communication, Attention, Responsiveness and Empathy. The “7” refers to the seven main objectives of the program, such as effective communication.

The CARE-7 program is funded by Penn Medicine Board member Barbara M. Jordan, according to the press release.

Students will participate in simulation-based learning and structured clinical practice to develop their palliative care skills through a “step structure”.

Pre-clerkship students will first be introduced to the fundamental concepts surrounding palliative care before deepening these skills through practical clinical applications. Finally, students practice their advanced expertise and engage in further education through electives, according to the press release.

“This program teaches students at every stage of their training how to communicate, improve care, alleviate suffering, and bring dignity to patients and their families,” Nadia Bennett, Associate Dean of the Clinical Sciences and Health Systems Program at the medical school and CARE- 7 advisor, said.

Palliative care courses had been offered as part of the School of Nursing program Palliative care certificate program. This program requires two core units and one elective unit for masters level nurses. Undergraduate students with clearance are also permitted to enroll in any of the foundation courses “NURS 5570: Principles of Palliative Care”. However, the program does not include a clinical component.

Other efforts are also being made to strengthen palliative care. Beginning in 2023, the Berkman Palliative Care Summer Internship will allow underrepresented and historically excluded students to learn about the specialty for eight intensive weeks.

“This education will pay off in multiple ways,” said Alana Sagin, associate professor of hospice and palliative care and director of the CARE-7 program. “We hope CARE-7 will encourage students to analyze their own practice as they encounter more opportunities in residence and beyond.”

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