Live Simulation Teaches Kent Nursing and NEOMED Students Communication and Compassion at the End of Life

From Touch Point Online Magazine, Spring 2023 – Vol. VII, Issue 1

On a Tuesday morning in early February, nearly 300 students, about 130 junior nursing students from Kent State's College of Nursing and 160 second-year medical students from Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), assembled in the Kent Student Center ballroom to experience an interdisciplinary teaching simulation about end-of-life care. 

Dana M. Hansen, Ph.D., APRN, ACHPN, is an associate professor at Kent State and co-director of the university's Ph.D. program in the College of Nursing. She believes that learning about how to interact with patients and their families during a supremely difficult and emotional time is essential for healthcare professionals. 

End of life simulation with NEOMED spring 2023

“This interdisciplinary experience was important as it nurtures and develops communication and empathy skills needed for caring for patients and their families at the end of life."

"Through both the online educational content and the live forum theatre delivery/simulation, the aim was to have learners find effective strategies for dealing with personal emotions that build the professional resilience and confidence during end-of-life patient and family encounters," Hansen said.

This learning opportunity is tied to the CAREOL research project, "Catalyzing Relationships at the End of Life: Supporting Families through Final Conversion," on which Hansen is the principal investigator. The faculty research team from Kent State University’s College of Nursing was recently funded with a President's Grant by the prestigious Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation. The goal of their study is to help ensure the competencies of new healthcare providers to facilitate vital family communication at the end of life. 

nursing students watching end of life simulation spring 2023

Actors from Kent State's School of Theatre and Dance performed in the end-of-life care simulations. Mariah Gibbons, public relations and marketing coordinator for the College of Nursing, attended the simulation event. "As an observer, I found the students’ dedication to compassionate care very inspiring. It was fascinating to watch their direct feedback impact the actors' approach during the second simulation," she said.

Representatives from both Kent State and NEOMED were among 43 facilitators for the event, which included experts in end-of-life care from Summa Health, Cleveland State University and Hospice of the Western Reserve. 

The project is partially funded by the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, the Henderson Reserve Fund and through the generosity of Ali Dariushnia, Kent State alumnus and supporter of the Kent State College of Nursing. 

When Dariushnia, a 2019 graduate of Kent State University’s College of Arts and Sciences, learned about the "Catalyzing Relationships at the End of Life: Supporting Families through Final Conversion," or “CAREOL” research project and training, he instantly knew that it was something he wanted to support.

“When my parents were critically ill and passed away in 2020, they were fortunate to have stellar hospice nurses who provided both them and me with first-rate quality end-of-life care and immense support,” noted Dariushnia. “The nurses I encountered, especially those who graduated from Kent State University, really made a concerted effort to truly get to know me and my parents as individuals.”

Encouraged by the exceptional care his mother and father received, Dariushnia made the decision to help fund the training not only for this year, but for years to come.

Throughout the course of their education, nurses become passionate about improving their patients’ outcomes and helping them on the road to recovery. In end-of-life situations, however, the reality is quite different. The optimism and enthusiasm to heal could potentially come across as insensitive. This is why the CAREOL research project and training is so crucial to shaping the well-rounded nurses needed in today’s medical environment.

Dariushnia’s mother, Cheryl Swinehart Dariushnia, was a 1977 BSN graduate of Kent State University’s College of Nursing. She went on to have a fulfilling and impactful career as a psychiatric nurse and counselor.

“She was a humanitarian first, who saw the human being in everyone, with the realization that an individual isn’t defined by their particular condition. She touched so many lives in her remarkable 30-year career and received the same compassionate care from the next generation of nurse leaders in return during her brave last days,” noted Dariushnia. “My parents always raised me to 'pay it forward' and I know there are many great nurses in the making, with the same skillset and attributes as my mother.”

By helping to support this training, more than 300 students from around our region are receiving training on how to better support those who are in their last days. These skills and tools will have a profound impact on those they serve. Students will take these lessons and use them as they step into the role and responsibility of being the next generation of nurses and doctors. It is the hope of their faculty and mentors, that these students will pass along the lessons they’ve learned to others and the impact felt from this training, and others like it, will be profound.

When asked about what his philanthropy to Kent State University and the College of Nursing meant to him, Dariushnia said, “Over the last two years, [since my parents passed away] I've definitely come to value how philanthropy not only has a ripple effect in planting seeds of lasting social change but can also foster monumental healing throughout the grieving process.”

Dariushnia is a second-generation Kent State Golden Flash who has provided numerous scholarships for students in the College of Nursing and the Department of Sociology. Recently he continued to honor his mother’s legacy at Kent State through a naming gift to the Electrophysiological Neuroscience Laboratory of Kent. The lab is now known as the Cheryl Swinehart Dariushnia Laboratory.

If you would like to consider supporting a program, training or creating a scholarship in the College of Nursing, please contact Corey Hukill at or at 330-571-0962.

POSTED: Tuesday, March 14, 2023 11:38 AM
Updated: Tuesday, March 14, 2023 03:08 PM
Phil B. Soencksen and Corey Hukill