Transdisciplinary Palliative Care Education
The primary aim of this innovative psycho-oncology educational initiative is to improve the delivery of palliative care by psychologists, social workers and spiritual care professionals through an intensive advocacy and leadership training program.
Competitively selected participants received more than 30 hours of didactic and experiential transdisciplinary education to improve their end-of-life knowledge, team skills and leadership abilities. These key advocates were provided with strategies to empower them to become more effective role models and advocates for enhanced palliative, end-of-life and bereavement care within their institutions and disciplines.
Background – Scope of the Problem
Deficits in the delivery of quality palliative care are numerous, with troubling findings continuing to emerge regarding disparities in the provision of care, substandard pain and symptom management, poor access to care, high caregiver burden, and communication deficits across the continuum of care. Persons facing a serious illness require competent and compassionate care, yet evidence indicates that few healthcare providers are adequately prepared for this critical task.
Recently, the fields of psychology, social work and spiritual care have focused attention on the need for improved palliative and end-of-life education. To date, most professional education is discipline specific and few professionals have received specific team-building or collaborative-skills training, despite a growing body of literature that suggests that the multidimensional concerns facing those at end of life are best addressed through intensive collaboration by an integrated team with specialized palliative care skills.
Integration of these disciplines into a cohesive and effective team requires skillful leadership, coordination, and communication between all members. Studies indicate that team functioning is best in an environment of trust with an appreciation of the unique perspective each professional contributes to the team. The transdisciplinary model is emerging from the hospice model of care in which all staff are expected to have competence in collaboration, an ability to assess for pain and distress, and an appreciation of the diverse social, psychological, spiritual and cultural concerns that might impact care delivery.
There is also a complex interplay of physical, psychological, social, spiritual, existential, medical, financial and social burdens experienced by those facing an advanced illness. Quality palliative care can best be delivered in an environment that integrates a bio-psychosocial-spiritual model of care and is comprised of skilled medical, nursing and psycho-oncology professionals.