Millions of U.S. veterans have dedicated their lives to service — and City of Hope nursing researchers aim to improve the last weeks and months of these lives.
The Department of Veterans Affairs recently awarded City of Hope’s End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC) a three-year contract to train nurses in how to provide better palliative care for veterans with life-threatening illnesses.
|Betty Ferrell (Photo courtesy the Archstone Foundation)|
“Palliative care manages pain and debilitating symptoms that cause distress and discomfort during serious illness,” said nationally recognized palliative care expert Betty Ferrell, R.N., Ph.D., principal investigator for the new ELNEC-For Veterans project and professor in the Division of Nursing Research and Education at City of Hope.
The ELNEC-For Veterans project will be a component of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) larger care-improvement initiative, said Ferrell.
More than 54,000 American veterans, mostly from World War II and the Korean War, die each month, according to the VA. Nearly 8 million Vietnam-era veterans are nearing retirement age, and more than
9 million veterans are age 65 or older, according to the U.S. Census. The number of these veterans over 65 is forecast to grow through 2034, so the need for hospice and palliative care in the VA system will grow in coming years, as well. The Department of Veterans Affairs Hospice and Palliative Care Initiative seeks to improve the quality of this care.
During the three years of the ELNEC-For Veterans project, 600 nurse educators will enroll in national “train-the-trainer” courses. The expertise they gain there will touch thousands of veterans in 153 Department of Veterans’ Affairs medical centers across the U.S.
ELNEC originally was developed in 2000 after extensive research documented that most nurses did not receive adequate end-of-life care preparation during their basic education. Initially funded by a Robert Wood Johnson grant, ELNEC began as part of a national curriculum in nursing schools to improve end-of-life care.
Within a decade, this train-the-trainer concept has grown exponentially. More than 11,000 nurses representing all 50 states and 65 countries have received ELNEC training, which they then share with colleagues in educational and clinical settings. ELNEC also has gone global. Trainers have traveled across six continents to instruct thousands of nurses and caregivers.
In addition to ongoing classes for students and faculty in nursing schools, ELNEC also offers more specialized curriculum for nurses working in critical care, pediatric, geriatric and now veterans’ care settings.
“The ELNEC-For Veterans project will provide planning and faculty to develop a curriculum and training programs to meet the unique educational needs of nurses who care for veterans,” said Ferrell. She noted that veterans receive care in many settings besides the VA system, including community hospitals, academic centers, cancer hospitals, home care and hospices. The ELNEC-For Veterans project hopes to reach nurses in these community settings as well.
The ELNEC-For Veterans project is collaboratively administered by City of Hope, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) in Washington, D.C., and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Pam Malloy R.N., M.S., of the AACN is co-investigator on the project. More information is available at www.aacn.nche.edu/ELNEC.