MedStart Compassionate Allies Program

Project: Research project

Project Details


The Compassionate Allies Program has two main objectives: 1) help meet the psychosocial needs of hospice patients, and 2) provide much needed hands-on education to future medical students in end-of-life issues. At the end of life, hospice meets many needs of people suffering from fatal illnesses. The hospice care is proved by an interdisciplinary team, including volunteers, but there are often a limited number of volunteers, leaving many psychosocial needs unmet. There is a great need for medical education in end-of-life issues and palliative medicine. To address the unmet psychosocial needs of hospice patients, we propose a new and innovative program that will allow pre-medical students to assume the role of a compassionate ally, a specialized hospice volunteer, to work directly with patients. Additionally, by partnering students with hospice, we aim to provide these future doctors with exposure to patients at the end of life. The term “compassionate ally” refers to connecting deeply with the person suffering from mortal illness; gaining an understanding of the patient's physical, emotional, social and spiritual suffering; and then serving as a supportive ally. Being an ally involves listening to the patient's stories in a nonjudgmental fashion and establishing a bond of trust. The compassionate ally will work with the patient to construct a personal Legacy Project, which may include a scrapbook with photos, a cookbook, a life review, audiotaped stories, or other such activities that will celebrate the life of the patient. The goals of the compassionate ally are to help improve the quality of the patient's last phase of life. Improving the quality of life in its final chapter not only benefits the person with advanced illness, but also can extend across generations as it extends through the family’s bereavement period. In the course of this project, students will be instructed on end of life issues, and be coached in the sensitivity needed to build a rapport with the dying patient. The value of this experience will be studied along the dimensions of student’s attitudes regarding the care of the dying, satisfaction with the experience, and career motivation, as well as patient and family’s quality of life and satisfaction with the program. The hope is that after studying the impact of the program, it will provide depth to students’ education as well as experience with a compassionate approach to medicine.
Effective start/end date9/1/1310/31/14


  • Wayne State University (WSU14021)
  • Seasons Hospice Foundation (WSU14021)


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