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Past Students Speak out About Palliative Care Training Experience

Palliative care is undeniably powerful in improving quality of life and transforming the healthcare experience, not just for seriously ill patients and families, but for providers on the front lines of care.

Grateful for the role we play in educating those providers, we asked some of our former students to share their best palliative care moments and how our training has made a difference in their lives and the lives of their patients.

Here are a few of their stories:

Putting patients in charge

Nancy Barnum
Nancy Barnum

Nancy Barnum, APRN, said her best palliative care moment was “when the daughters of an inpatient I was following for pain management all hugged me and thanked me for talking with them and their dad about making his remaining days comfortable and focused on being with his family” – instead of pushed into more active treatments for his metastatic lung cancer.

Barnum said the Advanced Practice RN Certificate education she received from the Institute “has helped me challenge medical residents and attending physicians to consider giving more thought to quality of life …”

“I find myself filling the gap between those people with chronic illness who are not ready for choosing the hospice option, but would like to spend their time at home rather than in the revolving door to the emergency room,” Barnum said. “Having discussions about advance directives and end-of-life decisions comes more naturally to me now.”

Supporting families through loss

It’s a privilege to serve patients and families at such a vulnerable time in their lives, said Lacey Ballew, LMSW.

“My best palliative care moment was when we received a visit from the husband of a former patient, about a year after his wife passed away…,” Ballew said. “He wanted to let us know how grateful he was for the support we provided him. When his wife was a patient, he stayed by her bedside all night and day and we could tell he was physically and emotionally drained. Our palliative care team members took turns sitting by her bedside so that he could go home, sleep and shower. He came back completely refreshed and was able to have the energy to continue sitting by her until she passed.”

Ballew said the Institute’s Post-MSW Palliative Care Certificate course “has helped me understand the social work role in palliative care. (It’s) very different from a hospital/medical social worker role, with a lot of the skills focusing more on emotional care rather than resources/discharge planning. The course is intense and worth every penny. Thank you CSU for having this course available!”

Giving voice to the voiceless

Chaplain Rebecca L. Hemphill said her best palliative care moment was being able “to advocate, and engage the support of the rest of my hospice team, (to support) a patient who was erroneously considered non-communicative. Through ongoing focused attention on this patient’s ways of communicating, we discerned his goals of care, and because we attended to them and observed they were possible, he was discharged from hospice…, (weaned) off a feeding tube, and, most importantly, (people) began to treat him as a living, thinking person of value.”

Hemphill said the palliative care chaplaincy training she received through the Institute “has helped me stand/speak up with strength and calm assurance as an advocate for ethical treatment of non-English speaking patients; for the range of concerns (e.g. families of choice) of LGBTQ patients/families; and most often for patients who have clear decisional capacity but whose goals of care are being ignored in situations where institutional pressures and/or assertive family members threaten to discount the patient’s voice.”

How you can help

We’ll share more palliative care moments on Tuesday, Nov. 28, as part of international Giving Day. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter, and prepare to help the CSU Shiley Institute for Palliative Care continue to make a different for patients, families and providers.

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