When applying to graduate schools I found myself scouring program websites to learn about special aspects each school offered. When reviewing the University of Cincinnati’s website I read about students who had proposed new ‘elective rotations’ in clinics or services that didn’t typically involve a genetic counselor. The University of Cincinnati recognizes that everyone has diverse interests and encourages you to explore these. During my second year, after recognizing my love for prenatal genetic counseling, I realized that a specialty rotation through Starshine pediatric and perinatal hospice would give me a unique perspective into what receiving and dealing with a terminal diagnosis is like for families.
During my five week rotation I was able to be involved in many different aspects of the Starshine program. I attended a weekly case conference with the Starshine team which included nurses, social workers, physicians, music therapists, child life specialists, bereavement coordinators, holistic health specialists, and chaplains. At the case conference, we discussed the health status of current patients and shared stories to remember patients who had recently passed away. I was also able to accompany nurses for hospice visits in the patients’ homes. I was fortunate to be able to participate in quite a few bereavement visits as well, which is a visit offered to help families cope with a family member’s death, and celebrate their life. During all of my visits, I was able to listen to the parents and siblings tell their stories about receiving the diagnosis, learning to cope with the diagnosis, and experiences dealing with the loss of a child.
Through this elective rotation I gained insight into the many psychosocial issues that go along with receiving the devastating news of a terminal diagnosis. All the families I met with were wonderful and were very receptive to my questions. They were eager to share advice with someone who, in the near future, might have to deliver and help families cope with the news of a terminal condition or diagnosis.
Not only did this rotation give me deeper insight into the multiple roles of perinatal hospice and how a genetic counseling might be involved. It also taught me a great deal about resources available to these families. Getting to know the caring members of Starshine’s team, and hearing parents talk about how instrumental hospice was in helping them deal with their child’s diagnosis have made me feel very comfortable referring future patients to similar services.