Developing Master Educators in Compassionate Communication

Center for Ethics admits inaugural class of Master Educators in Compassionate Communication

Compassionate, clear communication is the indispensable bedrock of excellent patient- and family-centered health care.  The Center for Ethics in Health Care at Oregon Health & Science University, which for 25 years has been committed to the practical application of ethical concepts and communications skills to ensure compassionate, respectful health care for Oregonians of all ages, has taken a major new step in this direction this fall, by admitting the inaugural class of six Master Educators in Compassionate Communication.

The Master Educators Program, which is funded in part by a three-year grant of $200,000 from The Collins Foundation, aims to enrich the campus-wide environment at OHSU by developing a cadre of exceptional faculty who are recognized and supported in their home departments and programs as role models, mentors, and master teachers of patient- and family-centered communications. The trainees admitted to the program this year will receive one year of intensive training in state-of-the-art methods of communications skills teaching, as well as opportunities to implement innovative communications skills teaching projects in their home departments, with the guidance and support of the program's communications skills experts. 

The newly admitted trainees, who will begin their program in January, 2014, are  
Elizabeth Bower, School of Medicine, Department of Medicine
Linda Brown, School of Nursing, Undergraduate Program and Doernbecher Children's Hospital
Joel Hardman, School of Medicine, Department of Medicine
Katherine Iossi, School of Medicine, Department of Medicine and VA Department of Hospital and Specialty Medicine
Alex Verdieck, School of Medicine, Department of Family Medicine
Jennifer Watters, School of Medicine, Department of Surgery

While this year's class represents the initial, pilot phase of a longer term endeavor, concentrating on faculty in the schools of Medicine and Nursing, the ultimate goal of the Master Educators Program is to reach faculty all of the OHSU schools—Dentistry and Pharmacy as well as Medicine and Nursing—so that students throughout OHSU are consistently exposed to superb faculty role models who can demonstrate effective, compassionate communication in their own practice, and the value of teaching compassionate communication is recognized and properly rewarded across the OHSU campus.

"OHSU is fortunate to have many clinicians on the faculty who are enormously gifted at communicating with patients and families," said Dr. David Barnard, Miles J. Edwards Chair in Professionalism and Comfort Care at the Center for Ethics, and director of the Master Educators in Compassionate Communication Program.  "We now have the opportunity to extend their influence dramatically, by equipping them to teach others what they themselves do so well."

The Master Educators in Compassionate Communication Program is part of the Center for Ethics in Health Care's mission to provide statewide leadership in identifying and addressing ethical issues in health care.  In the words of Truman Collins, a Center for Ethics Founder and President of The Collins Foundation, "There have been incredible advances in medical research and technology in recent years, but, to be truly effective, they must be used in the context of compassionate communication and skillful interprofessional collaboration.  Ensuring that the science of health care is matched with its wise use by caring and empathetic providers is vitally important work; the result will be health care that is better coordinated, more compassionate, and safer for us all."