Palliative care is a necessary and often forgotten aspect of care that can make a significant difference in the experience an individual faces when managing health conditions. Palliative care focuses on symptom management in the midst of a significant disease, and aims to achieve the ultimate goal of optimum quality of life. These symptoms can include pain, fatigue, appetite changes, sleep disturbances, nausea, constipation, shortness of breath and depression (Center to Advance Palliative Care, 2012). While this supplemental care is imperative for physical and psychological outcomes, palliative specific training or education is often lacking or missing from the curriculum of health care programs. One of the major barriers to palliative care in serious conditions, such as dementia, is the lack of provider knowledge. In order to achieve the optimum quality of life for patients struggling with serious diseases, health care providers need to have a foundation of knowledge regarding this type of care so it can applied throughout their career.
This topic stems from my doctoral applied project which concentrates on assessing pain in persons with advanced dementia. The project includes an extensive literature review that highlighted the lack of education in this area and the potential consequences of under-managed symptoms. Based on the findings from the evidence, I implemented educational sessions with nurse practitioners working in long term care facilities. Prior to the intervention, many of the nurse practitioners acknowledged that they were not given dementia specific training or education on pain assessment in this population. Not only did the project improve provider knowledge, but it increased the likelihood of use and dissemination of information to staff working at long-term care facilities. While these approaches to education are successful, the ideal approach is to include this education prior to practice where the knowledge can be standardized, presented by experts, and spread to a larger group of individuals.
One legislation that addresses this issue is H.R. 3119: Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act. This bill seeks to expand the Public Health Service Act to include more palliative care experts as faculty in health care programs (GovTrack, 2016). It serves the ultimate goal of addressing the lack of palliative care knowledge included in health care programs. This bill was recently introduced and referred to committee on July 21, 2015. The bill reflects the importance of building a solid foundation of knowledge in order to maximize patient care. Empowerment through education is fundamental to achieve the safest and most effective palliative care for individuals who are in state of suffering.
“If you learn to listen for clues as to how I feel, instead of what I say, you will be able to understand me much better” -Mara Botonis
GovTrack. (2016). H.R. 3119: Palliative care and hospice education and training act. Retrieved from https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr3119
Center to Advance Palliative Care. (2012). What is palliative care? Retrieved from https://getpalliativecare.org/whatis/