From the first day of nursing school, students are taught that it’s their job to care for the sick and injured with the goal of guiding the patient toward “healing” and “wellness.” But how does that same caregiver respond to the patient who is facing a serious life-threatening or terminal illness and whose prognosis does not include getting better?
Baptist Golden Triangle is making a concerted effort to make sure providers are trained in palliative care situations through End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC), which was born from the combination of two national projects in the early 2000s to help nurses deal with end-of-life issues.
The stressors during this time on both the patient and the caregiver can be overwhelming, according to Debra Rhinewalt, RN, director of palliative care at Baptist Golden Triangle.
“Unfortunately, there is little education in caring for those who may not reach our definition of “wellness.” Plus many caregivers, including physicians, lack the skills and self-confidence to address end-of-life issues,” she said.
But, she quickly adds, she is encouraged to see a national move to better prepare health care workers to deal with a patient with a terminal illness through the resulting program helps address the gaps in nursing education for end-of-life and palliative care.
Baptist Golden Triangle held the first ELNEC train-the-trainer program for its nursing staff in early April. Seventeen nurses, one nursing assistant and two social workers attended. A second session will be held in September. This is one of the first ELNEC training sessions held at a Baptist Memorial hospital, said Rhinewalt. She taught the training with the help of Baptist Golden Triangle Director of Pastoral Care Steve Brown and ethics consultant Dr. Bryan Hilliard.
The ELNEC core curriculum contains modules addressing critical aspects of end-of-life care, including: palliative care nursing, pain management, symptom management, ethical/legal issues, spiritual/cultural/social issues, grief/loss/bereavement and final hours.
Common threads woven throughout the curriculum include emphasizing the nurses’ role as a patient/family advocate, recognizing family as the unit of care, and the importance of an interdisciplinary care team to improve the quality of life at the end of life.