March 27, 2013 | by Hiu Chung So
Palliative care, once considered a treatment of last resort when no more can be done, has seen its worth proven in recent years by numerous studies. Research has shown that quality palliative care can improve patients’ quality of life, benefit treatment outcomes and prolong survival. It can also lower costs by reducing the length of hospital stays and number of readmissions.
Given these benefits, many health care programs are looking to hire or provide staff with palliative care training, and City of Hope is on the forefront of empowering them with these skills. And thanks to a $1.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute, it is developing a “train the trainers” program with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) for nursing school faculty.
The four-year program, called “Integrating Palliative Oncology Care into Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Education and Clinical Practice,” will train faculty in DNP programs about the research, education and practice of evidence-based palliative care, addressing topics such as pain and symptoms management, communication and cultural issues, and assessing and treating quality-of-life matters.
“DNP graduates play a pivotal role in leading change and transforming care for the 1.6 million Americans who will be diagnosed with cancer this year, plus the 13.7 million Americans who are living with a history of cancer,” said Betty Ferrell, Ph.D., R.N., professor in City of Hope's Division of Nursing Research and Education and principal investigator of this project. “As we near full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, DNPs will have unprecedented opportunities to promote excellent care to those with cancer.”
Because DNP programs are fairly new — with the AACN officially recognizing them in 2004 — their curricula are still evolving, and Ferrell aims for this project to be an opportunity to impact their courses of study while they are still being developed.
Through integrating palliative care into DNP programs, Ferrell hopes that their “graduates can impact and lead care in their clinical settings so that patients and families can get better attention to their symptoms and quality-of-life concerns."
This training program is the second national collaboration between City of Hope and the AACN. The initial project — the End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium, whose development also was led by Ferrell — began in 2000 and has trained more than 15,000 health care professionals internationally on studying, applying and improving palliative care.