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Exciting Progress, Big Plans in Our Work to Advance Palliative Care

Once upon a time, our family sent out about 200 Christmas cards. Of course, the list was padded by clients and colleagues of our small business, but . . . wow. It was a lot. And, I confess, we resorted to the dreaded form letter, imagining that all our contacts would be breathless with wanting to know what we’d been doing all year! In that spirit . . .

Dear Friends and Family!

Happy Holidays!

I can’t believe another year has passed! It literally seems like just a couple of weeks ago I was settling into my new role as Executive Director of the Institute and still getting lost on the way to the food court! What a whirlwind our team has experienced since then!

And two babies born to Institute staffers!! With another one on the way!!!

In the midst of all this, we also traveled to a couple dozen conferences – no need to buy soap or shampoo for maybe ever! Talking to our colleagues, and hearing and taking part in clinical, academic, and policy-oriented presentations, we’ve seen a few pretty broad themes shaping up, and we’re on them!

“Palliative to primary,” or put another way, “palliative is primary and primary is palliative.” Our Institute was founded on the dual recognition that we critically need more well educated and skilled specialty palliative care clinicians – but there will never be enough! ALL clinicians should have a basic palliative skill set and employ palliative principles in their practice. Our Primary Palliative Care Skills series addresses this very need.

Communication is where quality of care thrives or fails. (Not a new theme, but increasingly true!) Communication between family members, patients and providers, providers and each other, is the foundation on which all our efforts to improve quality of life, empower patient choice, and relieve suffering is built. Without it, we’re toast. All our courses emphasize communication, especially our Primary Palliative Care Skills series, Advance Care Planning series, and our new Communication Skills series.

Care management, from inpatient to community settings, is a critical role for the success of palliative care. No matter how good your inpatient team is, if the care manager working to transition patients back home or to the next care setting isn’t top notch, your patient will fall through the proverbial cracks. Hand-offs, connections, transitions are the trip wires in the continuum of care. Our new Care Excellence for Hospital Care Managers, launching early in the new year, will strengthen this critical role.

Pain management can’t just be a pill. The opioid crisis has complicated and endangered pain management for patients receiving treatment for serious illness, palliative care, or hospice care, and the unintended negative consequences of efforts to crack down on abuse are just beginning to be seen. Several new courses in development will address this issue head on, offering state-of-the-art, evidence-based pharmacological and nonpharmacological approaches.

That’s just a few of the lessons from the year and a sneak peek at a few of our plans for next year. We hope the holiday season and the New Year find you and yours in good health, high spirits, and merry company.

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