Park University Hosting Workshop on End-of-Life Care

Park University’s recently established Center to Advance the Study of Loss will host its inaugural workshop on Friday, Oct. 18, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Park Distance Learning Conference Center located on the University’s Parkville Campus. The workshop, “The Unacknowledged Grief of Professionals in End-of-Life Scenarios: Weighing in on Emotional Boundaries,” is designed for professionals involved in end-of-life care and bereavement care fields, as well as for students preparing for respective careers in the field of thanatology.

The featured speaker for the event is Harold Ivan Smith, D.Min., a bereavement specialist with Saint Luke’s Health System in Kansas City, Mo., and a prominent grief scholar who has written more than 40 books in the field of thanatology. His presentation will examine the taboo on grieving for the professional caregivers when a patient dies and discuss the implications for professionals’ personal lives and providing quality care for others. Attendees will discuss these industry concerns and brainstorm ways to break the barriers to encourage healthy grieving practices for clients and professionals.

Smith is a graduate of the Mid-America College of Funeral Service. He earned his Doctor of Ministry degree from Asbury Theological Seminary and an educational specialist degree from Vanderbilt University. Smith is the author of many books, including, Grief Keeping: Learning How Long Grief Lasts, ABCs of Healthy Bereaving, When You Don’t Know What to Say, Grieving the Death of a Mother, A Long-Shadowed Grief: Surviving a Suicide and When a Child You Love is Grieving.

Other speakers include Laurel Hilliker, Ph.D., executive director of Park’s CASL and assistant professor of sociology, and representatives from Crossroads Hospice, including Janet Hessenflow, executive director.

Hilliker said the workshop originated after reading a scholarly article related to the grief of professionals, particularly oncologists.

“It was reported that these specialists not only experience grief over the loss of their patients, but that the ‘professional taboo’ related to the emotion may also have negative consequences for the physicians as well as for the quality of care they deliver,” said Hilliker. “It is our hope that we will equip participants with the latest research on this topic and with an awareness of their grief in the workplace along with new strategies to care for themselves.”

The workshop will also help students to empathize with professionals currently working in the field, prepare them for the challenges and devise strategies to help ease grief of patient deaths, said Hilliker.

The Center to Advance the Study of Loss is the result of a partnership that started three years ago when Tulsa, Okla., based Crossroads Hospice, one of the nation’s leading providers of hospice care, provided a $10,000 grant for a new program to pair Park students from a wide variety of disciplines — including nursing, psychology, social work and journalism — with Crossroads Hospice patients. Earlier this year, Crossroads Hospice awarded Park a $100,000 grant to launch CASL. The Center focuses on creating a bridge between academic study, and practical, applied knowledge in the field of thanatology.

Cost for registration is $40 and includes lunch and refreshments. Continuing education units credits are available. Register before Thursday, Oct. 10, through Katie Werth, CASL administrative assistant at or (816) 584-6483.

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