Stanford University Geriatric Education Resource Center  

HB45: Planning a One-day Geriatrics Retreat

Table of Contents.

  I. Preface (How to Use This Manual)  4
 II. Why We Chose the Retreat Format  5
III. Goals of Our Retreats  6
IV. Choosing Specifics of the Retreat Format  7
A.    Testing  8
B.    General Event Introduction  9
C.    Breaks 10
D.    Event Session and Group Structures 12
E.    Using Film and Video 14
F.    Speakers 15
G.    Evaluation 17
V. Step by Step Instructions for Planning and Running a Retreat 18
A.    Finding and Booking a Location 19
B.    Billing Issues 19
C.    Planning Sessions 20
D.    Timelines 20
E.    Inviting and Reminding Participants and Guests 21
F.    Transportation and Parking 22
G.    Planning the Food 22
H.    Room Setups 23
I.    Audiovisual Equipment 23
J.    Arrangements for Speakers 23
K.    Curriculum Materials 24
L.    Items for Coordinator to Bring to the Event 24
M.    The Day of the Event 25
N.    Follow-up After the Event 26
VI. Less Expensive Alternatives 27
VII. Appendices 31

I. Preface (How to Use This Manual)

This manual has been developed to aid in the planning, conducting and evaluation of a one-day educational retreat. It is couched in the field of geriatrics, but many of the principles could be transferred to events involving other subject-matters. We had available between $8,000 and $11,000 each year for our events (two each year) so we held them in hotels which is a fairly expensive location in all regards. Since we are most versed in this venue, the manual is written as if the event will be held at a hotel, however, other options for space are discussed in Section VI on less expensive alternatives. This manual; is divided into seven parts. Section I describes how to use this manual. Sections II and III discuss our reasons for holding a retreat. Section VII consists of appendices. The two main parts, however, are Sections IV and V. Section IV focuses on choosing the specifics of the event, and Section V is a step-by step guide to coordinating everything once the general format considerations have been addressed.

Section IV is divided into different format options, such as breaks and using film & video, and is subdivided under each of these sections into "general considerations" and "what we did and what we found." This organization is meant to provide the option of reviewing our experiences, or directly accessing the more general considerations for different session-types.

Section V actually walks through the step-by-step planning and conducting of an event, addressing specific "how-tos" from finding and booking a location to follow-up after the event. It is organized along a linear timeline covering the process from beginning to end.

Since all sections are related, overlap of information in each section was inevitable. Rather than using a layout that required flipping through the whole book for each bit of information, we tried to develop a format in which each section could stand alone but still contain all relevant information; thus, many pieces of information are repeated in various sections in order to make quick referencing easier.

We hope this manual will cover the majority of issues faced by anyone attempting to hold a retreat, as well as provide easy reference to particular issues at any point during the planning/conducting process. If any questions arise, please do not hesitate to contact Greg Sachs, MD at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. He can be reached at 773-702-0102 or at

II. Why We Chose the Retreat Format

We decided to hold a retreat for interns doing their residency in internal medicine for a variety of reasons. Most important was that the geriatric specific rotations developed for our program sponsored by the John A. Hartford Foundation take place in years two and three of the residency. We decided to develop an event that would impact interns as well, thus giving each year of the internal medicine residency a major venue for education in geriatrics.

The retreat format provided an occasion for house-staff and faculty to better get to know each other, and allowed us to give the interns an experience that was fun as well as educational. We strove to achieve a tone for the event similar to that of a national meeting. This overall character gave the interns a change in atmosphere from the wards, and hopefully imbued geriatrics with extra validity in their estimation. We invited experts from a variety of fields in order to utilize their expertise, but also to show support from the sub-specialists for the field of geriatrics. A retreat proved to be a particularly good format in that it allowed us to highlight positive aspects of geriatrics while providing protected time to learn about it.

Protected time to learn about geriatrics was a key consideration in choosing the format for this intern geriatrics experience. The retreat format allowed time and space for the use of various teaching methods that are harder to fit into interns' daily schedules and locations, and that are well suited to the teaching of geriatrics. Clinical experience on the wards tends to present a variety of problems in quick succession. The retreat allowed time to focus upon one topic, and delve into some of its more subtle and complex aspects. The intern year tends to be a particularly busy one. With this in mind, we chose the retreat format in order to provide time away from wards and clinic rotations, and the interruptions that come with those settings, providing time to focus on one subject and time enough to reflect upon it.

III. Goals of Our Retreats

By holding a retreat, we sought to achieve several goals. Namely, we tried to provide a general overview of geriatrics and its importance as a field, as well as practical information the interns could use the next day on the wards. Since the retreat is held at the beginning of their residency and is succeeded in the following years of their residency by clinical experiences that would provide practical knowledge, we felt that the retreat experience should primarily serve to expose them to a lot of general ideas they might not have time or impetus to think about on their own. We wanted to give them information and experiences that would inform and possibly challenge their ideas about geriatrics, as well as their knowledge, skills, and attitudes. However, we found that the interns actually had very positive attitudes toward geriatrics and that they were eager to learn things that would help them do a better job of caring for their older patients the next day on the wards. With this discovery in mind, when the interns themselves requested more "practical" information from year to year, we used the retreats in succeeding years to focus more on knowledge and skills and less on attitudes.

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