“Confessions of a Reluctant Caregiver” Palliative Educational Program: The Results of a Survey Assessing Physicians’ Perceptions of Drama-Based Education for End-of-Life Care

  • Anna M. KerrEmail author
  • Ulyana Kachmar
  • Bradley Palocko
  • Merri Biechler
  • Tracy Shaub


Inadequate palliative care training in medical education is associated with many physicians feeling unprepared to care for dying patients and their families. Therefore, an opportunity exists to offer physicians continuing medical education that increases their understanding of and comfort with complex palliative care issues. The goal of the current study was to evaluate The Confessions of a Reluctant Caregiver Palliative Educational Program as an educational tool for physicians. The study employed a cross-sectional post-performance evaluation survey assessing physicians’ perceptions of the Confessions of a Reluctant Caregiver Palliative Educational Program. The program was presented to members of four professional healthcare organizations. A total of 50 physicians completed the evaluation survey. Overall, physicians rated the Confessions of a Reluctant Caregiver Palliative Educational Program positively. Their understanding of and comfort with end-of-life issues increased significantly after participating in the program. Moreover, they considered the program to be more useful than didactic lectures and journal articles. The results suggest that the Confessions of a Reluctant Caregiver Palliative Educational Program is a valuable education tool for palliative care training. More research is needed to explore its utility as an option for continuing medical education.


Palliative care Education Surveys Drama-based education 



The authors would like to acknowledge the Ohio University Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs for their service in survey development and as an external evaluator of the scope and impact of the Confessions of a Reluctant Caregiver Palliative Educational Program.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


  1. 1.
    Farber NJ, Urban SY, Collier VU, Metzger M, Weiner J, Gil Boyer E (2004) Frequency and perceived competence in providing palliative care to terminally ill patients: a survey of primary care physicians. J Pain Symptom Manag 28:364–372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Sullivan AM, Lakoma MD, Block SD (2003) The status of medical education in end-of-life care. J Gen Intern Med 18:685–695CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Fitzpatrick D, Heah R, Patten S, Ward H (2017) Palliative care in undergraduate medical education—how far have we come? Am J Hosp Palliat Med 34:762–773CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ury WA, Berkman CS, Weber CM, Pignotti MG, Leipzig RM (2003) Assessing medical students’ training in end-of-life communication: a survey of interns at one urban teaching hospital. Acad Med 78:530–537CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Billings JA, Block S (1997) Palliative care in undergraduate medical education. Status report and future directions. JAMA. 278:733–738CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Horowitz R, Gramling R, Quill T (2014) Palliative care education in US medical schools. Med Educ 48:59–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Jors K, Seibel K, Bardenheuer H, Buchheidt D, Mayer-Steinacker R, Viehrig M, Xander C, Becker G (2016) Education in end-of-life care: what do experienced professionals find important? J Cancer Educ 31:272–278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Ajzen I (1991) The theory of planned behavior. Organ Behav Hum Decis Process 50:179–211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Walczak A, Butow PN, Stella B, Clayton JM (2016) A systematic review of evidence for end-of-life communication interventions: who do they target, how are they structured and do they work? Patient Educ Couns 99:3–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Savitt TL (2010) Medical readers’ theater as a teaching tool. Camb Q Healthc Ethics 19:465–470CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Kerr, Anna, Merri Biechler, Ulyana Kachmar, Bradley Palocko, Tracy Shaub. Confessions of a Reluctant Caregiver Palliative Educational Program: using readers’ theater to teach end-of-life communication in undergraduate medical education. Health Commun. Forthcoming 2018.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Lorenz KA, Jillisa Steckart M, Rosenfeld KE (2004) End-of-life education using the dramatic arts: the Wit educational initiative. Acad Med 79:481–486CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Mckay M, Bright S (2005) Dementia care: learning through drama. Pract Dev Health Care 4:18–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Beach WA, Dozier DM, Buller MK, Gutzmer K, Fluharty L, Myers VH, Buller DB (2016) The Conversations About Cancer (CAC) Project—phase II: national findings from viewing When Cancer Calls…and implications for Entertainment–Education (E–E). Patient Educ Couns 99:393–399CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Connors AF, Dawson NV, Desbiens NA, Fulkerson WJ, Lee G, Knaus WA, Lynn J et al (1995) A controlled trial to improve care for seriously ill hospitalized patients: the study to understand prognoses and preferences for outcomes and risks of treatments (SUPPORT). JAMA. 274:1591–1598CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Bradley EH, Cramer LD, Bogardus ST Jr, Kasl SV, Johnson-Hurzeler R, Horwitz SM (2002) Physicians’ ratings of their knowledge, attitudes, and end-of-life-care practices. Acad Med 77(4):305–311CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Kogan AC, Brumley R, Wilber K, Enguidanos S (2012) Physician factors that influence patient referrals to end-of-life care. Am J Manag Care 18:e416–e422PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© American Association for Cancer Education 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Heritage College of Osteopathic MedicineOhio UniversityAthensUSA
  2. 2.Heritage College of Osteopathic MedicineOhio UniversityWarrensville HeightsUSA
  3. 3.College of Fine ArtsOhio UniversityAthensUSA

Personalised recommendations