Hospitals, Patient Engagement

Common Practice’s conversational game ‘My Gift of Grace’ in action at Mayo Transform

Talking about death can be an uncomfortable conversation. But value comes from having those discussions, and My Gift of Grace is an interactive way to prompt people to approach the subject.

Mayo Clinic’s Transform conference has been one of bringing people together – not just in the networking way, but in a human connection way.

A perfect example of this: Thursday afternoon Common Practice took its game My Gift of Grace and put it into practice with a group of roughly 100 Transform attendees.

The game is designed to provide a prompt for people to discuss both life, present and past, and the future experience of dying. It is a structured way for anyone to express things like potential end-of-life care plans, reminisce about previous experiences with loved ones or even share who someone might be that they would like to say sorry to before they die.

Tables were scattered around the room with the game set up on each, and people gathered, sitting with others they didn’t necessarily know moments before.

I sat with five other women – two Auburn University students and three Mayo Center for Innovation employees/event volunteers. Games always loosen the mood and awkwardness of sitting with complete strangers – even a game centered around the subject of death, believe it or not.

Each player starts with a number of chips similar to poker chips. As we go through the questions on the numbered cards, if someone says something they wrote down that moves you or feels particularly thoughtful, you can give them one of your chips. This is a way for not only each person to express something, but for others to actually physically acknowledge and appreciate them for what they shared.

We started with talking about our fears about playing the game. Most of us said something along the lines of, “I’m afraid I might get too emotional.”

We wrote down what we’d want written on our headstone in five words or less. Picked who would be the person we’d want to make healthcare decisions for us if we were no longer able. Shared our first memory of experiencing physical pain. Named three things we’d want our doctor know about us that weren’t related to healthcare.

We laughed a lot, surprisingly. We were present with one another and got to know each other in 30 minutes more than we get to know some people in years – in a different, more intimate way at least.

There were some tears. (I said previously, tissues were a necessity at Transform this year, and Common Practice came equipped.)

When the game was over, we each wrote down on a card what the value we think the game could bring to our lives and the lives of others. Everyone in the room then gathered in a huddle and we were instructed to pass around our cards and read them to each other and score the responses based on how they resonated with us. It was an opportunity to share even more, but with people who weren’t in our groups.

The game officially ended, but many groups went back to their tables and continued to play (mine included).

Needless to say, the session was a success, and it really highlighted that deep down, we get value from what we normally consider to be uncomfortable conversations. When we are prompted to be honest and talk with others, the floodgates go down.

My Gift of Grace is a wonderful opportunity for people to approach the subject of life and death, despite whether or not someone is sick or dying, but especially in those time-sensitive moments.