Office of Palliative Care

Structured Clinical Encounters

It can be challenging for residents to establish meaningful partnerships with caregivers due to the residents’ schedules and various rotations. However, clinical encounters can be structured to build communication skills, establish trusting relationships and gain appreciation for the unique needs of the patient and caregiver.

  • Conduct a family meeting with other key team members, identifying the patient and family’s goals and values and limitations and resources for care planning.
  • Engage the caregiver, social worker and other team members in discharge planning. Have the resident complete a 4-week calendar with the caregiver on all post-discharge instructions such as acquisition and schedule of medications, special care needs, diet, follow-up tests, and transportation for appointments.  Call the caregiver several days post-discharge to inquire how things are going at home.
  • Use a bedside tool to promote communication with the patient’s caregiver as it is often difficult to meet face-to-face during the patient’s hospitalization.
  • Have a faculty member accompany the resident on a home visit while the caregiver is present, if possible. The resident should gain an appreciation for “a day in the life” of the caregiver and the patient and identify needs of the caregiver. Have the resident ask other team members to help identify potential sources of community-based support based on the unique needs of the patient and caregiver.


Margaret Sanders, M.A., LSW

Kathleen Enoch

Building Caregiver Partnerships

This site contains a free compendium of educational tools and resources on issues of family caregiving for health professions faculty, providers and students.

Co-sponsored with Summa Health and funded by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.

Office of Palliative Care

Department of Family & Community Medicine