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Bridging the gap: CMU study works to understand the psychology of palliative care

Central Michigan University
Jim Gerhart

It’s a term that frequently makes people uncomfortable according to psychologists. Jim Gerhart, Ph.D., wanted to change that.

The Central Michigan University faculty member is partnering with the College of Medicine and others to create a training program for healthcare workers on palliative care.

The training will launch a pilot program next year to educate medical employees on the mindset of a patient facing palliative care.


Gerhart said it will help medical leaders support and guide those facing the choice.

“We’re trying to sort of bridge the gaps in our current project by getting more education to healthcare professionals so they can start thinking about what role they might play in helping especially older adults with serious illnesses, manage their symptoms and side effects better,” he said.

Gerhart said more than just medical professions are welcome. Social workers and even faith leaders can benefit from it as the training will be customized to various areas of expertise.


“So a physician or nurse might be getting education from other physicians and nurses about medication, social workers and psychologists might be getting information on therapeutic techniques,” he said.

Gerhart said the main misconception is its association with hospice. He said palliative care can work hand in hand with medical treatments to reduce side effects or pain. 

“People tend to report lower stress, lower symptoms of anxiety and depression,” Gerhart said. “People feel like they have a better understanding and sort of interaction with the rest of the medical team because this person has considered what’s important to them and what their goals are for getting out of treatment.”

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