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Celebrating Diversity in Scholarship Recipients

The recipients of the 2017 Donald and Darlene Marcos Shiley Scholarships come from diverse backgrounds, organizations and healthcare roles, but share a common vision and purpose: they want to deepen their palliative care skills to better serve patients in San Diego County.

That’s the mission behind the scholarships, offered through the California State University Shiley Institute for Palliative Care and funded by a $25,000 donation from Darlene Marcos Shiley.

More than 40 nurses, social workers, chaplains and other health professionals applied for the awards, which cover the full cost of tuition in any Institute course. The 16 recipients were announced in late November in honor of National Hospice and Palliative Care Month.

Several of the winners come from the region’s large health systems and hospitals – including Sharp HealthCare, Scripps Health, Tri-City Medical Center and Palomar Medical Center – and others come from community hospices and other settings.

“It’s such a thrill for us to offer this opportunity – and we’re very grateful for the generosity of Darlene Marcos Shiley in making these awards possible,” said Jennifer Moore Ballentine, Executive Director at the CSU Shiley Institute for Palliative Care. “Through these scholarships, we’re extending palliative care expertise in our own community and into settings we have not otherwise reached.”

Connecting With Patients

Noelle Pederson, a hospice and palliative music therapist with MusicWorx Inc., said she’ll use her scholarship to enroll in the Institute’s Care of Latinos with Serious Illness. At one local hospital she serves, roughly 50 percent of patients identify as Latino, Pederson said.

“As music therapists, we provide a variety of interventions … such as symptom management, comfort, spiritual and family support, expression, relaxation, and more,” Pederson said in her application. “I’m using my own resources to better my Spanish and knowledge of music from Mexico and other Latino countries, but there’s so much more to understanding someone than solely their language.

“Having a better understanding of my patients’ cultural beliefs around illness would greatly assist my care to them as a music therapist in my assessment, selection of interventions and music, and also in the evaluation of effectiveness,” she said.

Providing Palliative Care to Veterans

Registered Nurse Raquel Patino will use her scholarship on the Institute’s RN Certificate in Palliative Care course, which will help her better serve patients at the Veterans Administration Medical Center-San Diego

“I consistently provide care for veterans who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness or who choose to receive hospice care on the Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) unit,” Patino said in her application. She said the hospice and palliative care education she received from 2014 to 2016, while working at the former Gentiva Hospice in San Diego, shaped her career and inspired her to pursue more training.

“The knowledge and skills learned during this time are the foundation of the critical thinking and work ethic I practice,” Patino said, adding that the RN Certificate course will help take that training to the next level.

Focusing on Patient-Centered Care 

Debra Duncan, a registered nurse at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, said Institute training will affirm and sharpen many of the qualities she has developed during her three-decade nursing career.

“Excellent nursing is rooted in many similar tenets as palliative care: dignity, patient-family focused care, choice, comfort, holistic support of the person,” Duncan said in her application. Though she’s never received formal training in palliative care, she said she’s experienced the powerful ways person-centered care can touch patients and families. 

“What I know … has been gleaned from observations while providing patient care, interacting with families of dying patients, interactions with spiritual providers, conversations with physicians about medication regimens for dying patients, and my own experiences with family members dying,” said Duncan, who plans to take the Institute’s RN Certificate in Palliative Care.

Educating others about palliative care 

Angela Breton, an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse at a CVS Minute Clinic in Escondido, said she applied for the award because she believes a greater understanding of palliative care can benefit patients and providers.

With her scholarship, Breton said she’ll enroll in the Institute’s APRN Certificate in Palliative Care. She hopes to use the knowledge she gains to clear up misconceptions about palliative care among some clinicians and patients, while improving care for vulnerable populations.

“As a nurse, I practice with compassion and dignity, (and) I have a big heart for our elderly population,” she said in her application. “As I move forward with my career helping those with chronic illnesses (COPD, asthma, diabetes, CHF, and end-stage renal failure), I would love to expand my knowledge base to include palliative care, which is not clearly understood in my community …”

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