Date of Award

Fall 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

Elise Bolda, PhD

Second Advisor

Flic Shooter


palliative care, health care workshops, multi-disciplinary health care, Muskie School of Public Service, USM Aging Initiative, Health and Wellness


The Palliative Players are screened and trained hospice volunteers who provide a low-cost, sustainable, role-playing resource for use teaching communication skills to healthcare workers who discuss serious illness with patients and their families. The Palliative Players project was conceived and developed in early 2017 by Dr. Lauren Michalakes, Medical Director of Palliative Care at Coastal Healthcare Alliance (CHA); Sarah Dwelley, RN; Flic Shooter, Director of Hospice Volunteers of Waldo County (HVOWC); and Eliza Eager, Project Coordinator; to provide believable, emotive simulated patients (SPs) for role-play in workshops teaching healthcare workers communication tools and skills for use in conversations with patients and families facing serious illness.

Nationally, there are excellent tools and systems for teaching serious illness conversation skills to physicians and nurse practitioners, including VitalTalk (VitalTalk, 2017), and the Serious Illness Conversation Program (SICP) (Ariadne Labs, 2017). As designed, however, neither of these tools entirely fits all the needs and system constraints of rural Maine; nor were they designed for use teaching goals of care conversation skills to the nurses, social workers and other healthcare workers who can and do have these conversations with patients. The Palliative Players project adapts, expands, and combines existing tools, training hospice volunteers to be dynamic teaching resource for role-play of serious illness conversations.

This capstone paper describes the development of the Palliative Players project, including training and management details and lessons learned in project implementation to date. Training materials used and developed are found in the Appendices.



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