Background: Advance care planning (ACP) is a critical component of end-of-life (EoL) care, yet infrequently taught in medical training.
Objective: We designed a novel curriculum that affords third-year medical students (MS3s) the opportunity to practice EoL care discussions with a trained older adult in the patient's home.
Design: Volunteers were instructed as trained patients (TPs) to evaluate MS3s interviewing and communication skills. The MS3s received a didactic lecture and supplemental material about ACP. Pairs of MS3s conducted ACP interviews with TPs who gave verbal and written feedback to students. Student evaluations included reflective essays and pre/postsurveys in ACP skills.
Settings and Participants: A total of 223 US MS3s participated in the curriculum.
Results: Qualitative analysis of reflective essays revealed 4 themes: (1) students' personal feelings, attitudes, and observations about conducting ACP interviews; (2) observations about the process of relationship building; (3) learning about and respecting patients' values and choices; and (4) the importance of practicing the ACP skills in medical school. Students' confidence in skills significantly improved in all 7 domains (P < .001): (1) introduce subject of EoL; (2) define advance directives; (3) assess values, goals, and priorities; (4) discuss prior experience with death; (5) assess expectations about treatment and hospitalization; (6) explain cardiopulmonary resuscitation and outcomes; and (7) deal with own feelings about EoL and providers' limitations.
Conclusions: The use of older adults as TPs in an ACP curriculum provides students an opportunity to practice skills and receive feedback in the nonmedical setting, thereby improving comfort and confidence in approaching these conversations for future patients.