Joy and Opportunity: A Conversation About Growing the Palliative Care Workforce
Advancing the life-changing benefits of palliative care and equipping health professionals to meet the growing demand is a shared passion of Helen McNeal, Executive Director of the CSU Institute for Palliative Care, and Katy Lanz, Chief Clinical Officer for Aspire Health. The two palliative-care powerhouses spoke recently about the critical need to train a new palliative-care workforce; the joy of treating patients in their own homes; and the unconventional idea that a career in palliative care can be sexy and fun.
HELEN: Katy, I think one of the most exciting things about palliative care is that it focuses on helping patients with chronic illness manage their symptoms and live in the way that’s most meaningful to them. It’s really about maximizing quality of life at any stage in an illness. And it means people are going to be cared for in the setting where they really want it – at home.
KATY: Absolutely! When people hear the words “palliative care” they often think end-of-life, but really palliate means to provide comfort. It’s most effective when applied to patients who are way upstream in the course of a disease and headed toward changes in their illness, versus where we are now as an industry, typically supporting people after a serious health crisis has happened.
At Aspire we reach those upstream patients; match a treatment plan that fits their life goals; and then support them so they can be at home, in the environment they love, for as long as possible. That’s the beauty of palliative care… and it’s what Aspire is all about. We’re only four years old, and we’re already the nation’s largest palliative care practice in the community setting.
We’re experts in providing relief from the symptoms, pain or stress that accompany a serious illness. But our ability to do this is dependent on highly skilled professionals who understand palliative care, embrace it and can deliver it to vulnerable patients. That takes good people and effective training.