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Nurse Retention: Nurse Shortage in Palliative Care and Hospice

Written by LeAnn Thieman, CSP, October 1st, 2013

Twenty-five percent of Medicare dollars, more than $125 billion a year, is spent on services for 5% of beneficiaries in the last year of their lives, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Yet there is a growing shortage of specially trained palliative care nurses and physicians. How can we care for the growing population of chronically ill in a more effective, compassionate manner?

Obviously, we need to train more nurses and physicians in the service of palliative care, but that may be easier said than done. Data from the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine shows that at least 15,000 palliative care physicians will be needed by 2024, but currently only about 200 a year receive training.

As for nurses, fellowships and certification programs are available, but not nearly enough, especially when the goal is to provide training for every nurse who works with chronically ill patients.

We need to see more advanced practice nurses in palliative care. Palliative care, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is an approach to treatment that improves the quality of life for both patients and families who face life-threatening illnesses. The goal is to relieve suffering by identifying clients’ needs early on, including physical, psychosocial and spiritual.

It is often recommended that physicians and nurses spend at least a year or two working in primary care, ICU or the ER before seeking training in palliative care.

For nurses, the End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC) has developed both general and advanced palliative care courses. The curriculum includes modules on pain and symptom management; ethical and legal issues; cultural considerations and more. The Hospice and Palliative Nurse Association (HPNA), established in 1986, offers a certification program.

Once again the evidence is clear. We need more nurses to meet this demand. Learn how to prepare for the nursing shortage and gain strategies for nurse retention and nurse recruitment by visiting SelfCare for HealthCare™. Please CONTACT ME DIRECTLY to talk about customizing this powerful program for your employees.

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