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Consortium Spearheads Improvement in End-of-Life Nursing Training

Consortium Spearheads Improvement in End-of-Life Nursing Training

DUARTE, California—Nurses play a crucial role in the quality of patients’ experience at the end of life, but nursing schools have not traditionally provided high-quality training in caring for the dying, according to Rose Virani, RNC, MHA. Now a program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation aims to upgrade the offerings of the nation’s nursing schools through specialized end-of-life courses for nursing educators.

Ms. Virani, research specialist, Nursing Research and Education, at the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California, outlined the new program being conducted by the End of Life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC). A collaboration between the City of Hope Cancer Center and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), ELNEC has developed a curriculum based on the AACN’s Peaceful Death document. The curriculum is designed to provide faculty at undergraduate nursing schools and providers of professional continuing education with the resources they need to expand the coverage of end-of-life issues in their own programs. Among the areas of concentration are:

  • nursing care at the end of life;
  • methods for managing pain and symptoms;
  • legal, ethical, and cultural issues;
  • communication;
  • bereavement and grief; and
  • preparation for death.

Positive Results Reported

To date, five undergraduate courses run by ELNEC have drawn 550 participants, Ms. Virani said. Each person receives a hefty "4-inch, 5-pound notebook" of course materials including references and slides for the course modules. In addition to class work, the program offers participants opportunities for networking and sharing experiences and ideas.

Participating undergraduate instructors surveyed after completing the course reported increases in both the time that their schools allot to end-of-life issues—from 18.6 to 30 hours, on average—and in the effectiveness of their graduates in providing end-of-life care, Ms. Virani said. Resistance from other faculty members has, however, constituted a barrier to change, the respondents reported.

Four additional courses will be offered between June 2002 and January 2003. As ELNEC reaches more and more nursing educators, who in turn train more and more nurses, "the dying will receive improved end of life care," Ms. Virani concluded.

Information on ELNEC courses is available at the website http://www.aacn.nche.edu/elnec.

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