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Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2018 Dec 25:1049909118820844. doi: 10.1177/1049909118820844. [Epub ahead of print]

Providing End-of-Life Care: Increased Empathy and Self-efficacy Among Student Caregivers in Residential Homes for the Dying.

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1 Department of Psychology, Union College, Olin 110C, Schenectady, NY, USA.
2 Department of Social Work, Skidmore College, 815 N Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY, USA.



Health-care providers report a lack of training in end-of-life care and limited opportunities exist to learn about the dying process in home settings where most prefer to die.


To evaluate the effectiveness of a Community Action, Research, and Education (CARE) program designed to promote empathy and self-efficacy communicating with and caring for terminally ill patients.


This mixed-methods study collected pre-post data from 18 undergraduates (7 men≤ 11 women) in a 8-week immersive program where they served as primary caregivers in residential homes for the dying providing 200 hours of bedside care to hospice patients during their final days. Quantitative measures assessed empathy using the Jefferson Scale of Empathy-Health Professions (JSE-HPS) version and self-efficacy using a 20-question palliative care skill assessment. Qualitative analyses were conducted on reflective journals to further assess knowledge, skill, and value development.


Paired t tests revealed significant increases in empathy ( P < .05) and self-efficacy ( P < .001) to provide end-of-life care. Thematic analysis of reflective journals further demonstrated specific instances of empathy and self-efficacy.


Community-run residential homes for the dying offer a unique opportunity for skills training in end-of-life care. The opportunity to serve as a caregiver for the dying improved students' confidence and ability to provide empathic patient- and family-centered end-of-life care to hospice patients in their final days.


caregiver; empathy; end-of-life care; hospice; residential homes for the dying; self-efficacy; training


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