Consider the Conversation

Consider the Conversation

Motivated by personal experiences with the loss of loved ones, Mike Bernhagen - a curative healthcare business development professional turned hospice advocate - and Terry Kaldhusdal - an award winning documentary filmmaker and former State Teacher of the Year - decided to join forces on Consider the Conversation-A Documentary on a Taboo Subject. This award winning project sheds light on the 21st century American struggle with communication and preparation at life's end. Consider the Conversation examines multiple perspectives on end-of-life care and includes information and experiences gathered from interviews with patients, family members, doctors, nurses, clergy, social workers, and national experts from around the country.

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When Hollywood director Frank Capra saw poverty and war causing despair among millions of Americans in the 1930s and 40s, he attempted to restore hope by making films that celebrated the common man triumphing over seemingly insurmountable odds. Three pictures in particular - Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) and It's a Wonderful Life (1946) - all told stories about simple men whose patriotism, idealism and small town values made a big difference in the lives of others. Today, we call these kinds of individuals "social entrepreneurs" - people who notice a problem in their community and create a way to remedy that issue with the simple goal of producing positive change. Terry Kaldhusdal and Michael Bernhagen are two such men.

Motivated by personal experiences with the loss of loved ones, Bernhagen - a curative healthcare business development professional turned hospice advocate - and Kaldhusdal - a documentary filmmaker and former State Teacher of the Year - decided to join forces in 2009 to begin production of Consider the Conversation, a project that intimately explores the American struggle with communication and preparation at life's end. At the time, all of the producers' grant applications were rejected because they were complete unknowns and the nation was in the midst of a fierce debate over healthcare reform. Sadly, it was an environment in which a conversation between a doctor and patient about end-of-life wishes became toxic. This natural, human issue suddenly became a political, taboo issue.

Recognizing the immense social value of Kaldhusdal and Bernhagen's work, the Board of Directors at Rainbow Hospice Care - one of Wisconsin's few independent and non-profit hospices - voted to establish a restricted fund that enabled individuals and organizations from 15 states to contribute $43,000 to the cause. That, combined with the donation of more than 3,500 hours of personal time from the producers, meant that a beautiful film capturing the perspective of patients, families, doctors, nurses, social workers, clergy and national experts could be completed.

Since its premiere in early 2011, Consider the Conversation has aired over 300 times on 140 PBS stations; won nine awards including four for social change and viewer impact; and been purchased on DVD by individuals and organizations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, India, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore and Tasmania. Most impressive, however, is the fact that Bernhagen and Kaldhusdal's work has inspired the Wisconsin Medical Society to launch Honoring Choices Wisconsin - a statewide, collaborative advance care planning initiative which is based on the premise that talking with patients about end-of-life wishes at a time when they're not dying is good preventive medicine.

In addition, the producers have been the featured guests on numerous NPR affiliate programs including Wisconsin Public Radio's At Issue with Ben Merens; WOSU's All Sides with Ann Fisher; Capital Public Radio's Insight with Jeffrey Callison; and Milwaukee Public Radio's Lake Effect with Bonnie North.

Nine Awards And Counting

Best Shorts Competition
Award of Excellence: Use of Film/Video for Social Change
Award of Merit: Short Documentary
Award of Merit: Direction
Award of Merit: Viewer Impact: Content/Message

Indie Fest
Award of Merit: Use of Film/Video for Social Change

The Accolade
Award of Excellence: Short Documentary
Award of Merit: Concept
Award of Merit: Viewer Impact: Content/Message Delivery

82nd Annual Milwaukee Press Club Awards for Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism
Silver Award of Excellence for Best Documentary or News Special

In their moving presentations, Kaldhusdal and Bernhagen inspire medical, faith, business and lay audiences alike to think, talk and act upon a subject that has been historically taboo in our culture.

For more information on Mike Bernhagen, click here.
For more information on Terry Kaldhusdal, click here.
For more information on Consider the Conversation, click here.

    "Engaging. Meaningful. Caring. Those are the first three words that come to my mind in regard to our event. Mike and Terry combined to make our time together a memorable experience that helped all in attendance shape their path forward."

    - Wisconsin Chapter of the World Presidents' Organization (WPO)

    "After attending one of their "Unplugged" talks at a state conference, our leadership team felt compelled to bring Terry and Mike to our service area to host a major Theatrical Film Presentation and Community Conversation event. From that night forward, their work and personal message have continued to resonate throughout the medical, faith and lay communities."

    - Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice

    "Our health system had the distinct honor of working with Mike and Terry to premiere their film in suburban Milwaukee. The positive energy in the theater that night was palpable as evidenced by the sold out show, standing ovation and hundreds of requests for advance directives. The experience was the first in a series of events that has begun to change the culture of end-of-life care in our organization and throughout Wisconsin."

    - ProHealth Care Clinic Division

    "Mike Bernhagen's introduction and presentation mesmerized our conference audience and set a perfect tone for the thought-provoking documentary, Consider the Conversation, which raises profound questions about the long-avoided topic of healthcare decision making at end-of-life."

    - Agrace HospiceCare

    "Consider the Conversation is a remarkable, thought-provoking film that looks at many of the issues that we will all face at the end-of-life. It opens the floodgates of thought and conversation on this most difficult and often taboo subject. It helps to illustrate many areas of improvement in our health care system. I would encourage everyone to watch this important film including physicians, healthcare workers, patients and families. This film will help us to be better physicians, better nurses, better patients and better people."

    - Mayo Clinic Health System-Home Health & Hospice