It’s National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, which is the perfect time to discuss exciting new developments in these areas.
Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives voted with overwhelming support to pass the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA) (S.2080). If also passed in the Senate, this piece of legislation could mean transformative changes for those working in hospice and palliative care, as well as patients who are undergoing care in these fields.
Though there are many different components of this bill, patients, families and caregivers should be aware of three major parts:
1. Workforce Training: Ensure we have education centers, curricula, and teachers to expand interdisciplinary training in palliative and hospice care and establish programs to attract and retain providers.
There is a staffing shortage in the fields of hospice and palliative care for several reasons including the additional training and work commitments nurses in this field are required to take on, the high costs agencies must cover for training new recruits, and the shrinking reimbursement for hospice care nationwide. By expanding the training of hospice and palliative care to reach outside of this niche specialty, more medical providers will be able to offer care that caters to the many baby boomers who have previously been left with sub-standard end-of-life care. Increased workforce training would affect the VNA's Advanced Illness Management (AIM) program positively if more potential team members already have a grasp of the philosophy of care when they are hired onto our care team, which extends beyond medical providers to include social workers and chaplains.
2. Education and Awareness: Provide for a national campaign to inform patients, families and health professionals about the benefits of palliative care and the services that are available to support patients with serious or life-threatening illness.
Many are unsure of the differences between palliative care and hospice, or hold misconceptions about each that may end up preventing families from seeking the comfort, support and care these services can provide. Better education and awareness on both of these topics is important to help families more effectively navigate the challenges their sick loved ones may be faced with. Hospice Care Director Carol Emmerich, RN, says, "We are training every day to build a competent team with expertise in symptom management which allows for a comfortable death." Director of Advanced Illness Management/Palliative Care Services Deborah Jeffrey, DNP, says, "The holistic team approach used in the AIM program empowers patients and their families to reduce unnecessary hospitalizations and live as independently as possible with the best possible quality of life regardless of the trajectory of illness."
3. Enhanced Research: Direct NIH to use existing authorities and funds to expand palliative care research to advance clinical practice and improve care delivery for patients with serious or life-threatening illness.
Developments in palliative care research could mean breakthroughs in information that our clinical physicians and nurses use in their care practice to provide even more effective care to patients. The Visiting Nurse Association's Advanced Illness Management (AIM) program has been collecting data on patient outcomes for 3 years with our partner at St. Louis University. "Our outcomes will potentially be published in 2020. This is exciting for us to demonstrate the value of AIM as an option for patient’s living with serious chronic illnesses in our community," says Deborah Jeffrey, DNP.
To learn more about PCHETA and to contact your local senator to encourage their support, visit: https://www.hospiceactionnetwork.org/take-action/#/30