For those of us who are passionate about palliative care and what it means to vulnerable patients, the growing shortage of health professionals and the increasing threat of clinician burnout are especially worrisome trends – and ones the Institute is addressing full-bore as we enter our sixth year in business.
Between the natural aging-out of Boomer healthcare professionals (simultaneous with the need for care of the aging generation) and the financial and demographic pressures reducing the re-supply, predictions suggest that by 2030, we’ll be short between 40,000 and 100,000 physicians and by 2022, 1.2 million nurses.
In palliative care, the story is much the same: The AAHPM Workforce Task Force, in 2010, estimated that in that year, the field was short about 18,000 physicians to meet full staffing need; meanwhile the 119 accredited hospice and palliative medicine training programs were churning out new palliative care docs at the rate of . . . about 300 a year.
A much more recent study found that gap not much closed, and likely to get worse as 47% of currently practicing HPM physicians indicated a high likelihood of leaving the field within 10 years. Bottom line, there will never be enough specialty-level palliative care clinicians, in any discipline, to meet the burgeoning need. So there’s that.
Educating the New Workforce
On the other hand, this creates an enormous opportunity—in two ways: First, for bright, ambitious, big-hearted medical, nursing, social work, and chaplaincy students to find a sure path to full employment within nanoseconds of graduating by acquiring palliative care specialty certifications and clinical experiences.
This is the core of the Institute’s mission—to equip future and current healthcare professionals with the knowledge base and skills they need to practice in specialty-level palliative care teams across the continuum. Increasingly, we’re working closely with health systems, health plans, and major clients to custom-develop curricula to meet particular workforce needs. Let us know what we can do for you.
The Value of Primary Palliative Care
The other huge opportunity is for non-specialist clinicians to acquire a foundational set of primary palliative care skills. This not only helps to fill the gap of need, but moves the application of palliative approaches—identifying goals of care and tailoring treatment and care plans to those goals—upstream into the mainstream.
If primary care providers can introduce advance care planning and begin discussing goals and values when illnesses first emerge, patients, families, providers, and systems will all benefit. To this end, we’re delighted to soon be introducing our comprehensive curriculum on primary palliative care: Primary Palliative Care Skills.
Addressing Burnout, Building Resiliency
This upcoming series addresses the physical, psychosocial and spiritual aspects of care for patients, as well as a growing worry—the high degree of clinician burnout and stress. Of the physicians planning to leave the field, 49% indicated it was due to retirement, but 24% cited burnout and another 26% cited dissatisfaction with organizations or compensation. Burnout among nurses is reaching epidemic proportions, with 82% of more than 14,000 nurse and nursing student respondents to a survey by the ANA reporting significant levels of workplace stress.
Admittedly, stress among palliative care clinicians, working constantly with very seriously ill and dying patients, may be higher still. Self-care is not a luxury; it’s a matter of survival. The Institute is hearing this cry for help loud and clear, developing courses to teach skills of self-care, resilience, and personal healing.
Our Aromatherapy and Healing Through Art courses are some of our most popular; the Primary Palliative Care Skills series includes a complete course on Self-Care and Resilience; Redwing Keyssar’s Journey of Self-Awareness module builds internal resources of strength and comfort.
This is an area of our catalog that will continue to grow—with you in mind.