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Perm J. 2008 Spring;12(2):36-41.

Five-Year Experience: Reflective Writing in a Preclinical End-of-Life Care Curriculum.

Abstract

INTRODUCTION:

This paper examines the use of reflective writing in a preclinical end-of-life curriculum including comparison of the role and outcomes of out-of-class (OC) versus in-class (IC) writing.

METHODS:

Learners were required to complete one-page essays on their experiences and concerns about death and dying after attending a series of end-of-life care lectures. From 2002-2005, essays were completed OC and in 2006 and 2007 essays were completed during the first ten minutes of small group discussion sessions. Essays were collected and analyzed for salient themes.

RESULTS:

Between 2002-2007, reflection essays were gathered from 829 learners, including 522 OC essays and 307 IC essays. Essay analysis identified four major themes of student concerns related to caring for dying patients, as well as student reactions to specific curricular components and to the use of reflection. IC essays were shorter and less polished than OC essays but utilized a wider variety of formats including poems and bulleted lists. IC essays tended to react to lecture content immediately preceding the writing exercise whereas OC varied in curricular components upon which they focused. OC essays have the advantage of giving learners more time to choose subject matter, whereas IC essays provide a structured time in which to actively reflect. Both formats served as catalysts for small group discussions.

DISCUSSION:

Writing exercises can effectively provide an important opportunity and motivation for learners to reflect on past experiences and future expectations related to providing end-of-life care.

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