$1.5 million grant awarded for interdisciplinary oncology palliative care education program at UofL

$1.5 million grant awarded for interdisciplinary oncology palliative care education program at UofL

A multi-disciplinary team representing the schools of Nursing, Medicine and Social Work at the University of Louisville, as well as clinical pastoral education programs in three Louisville hospitals, has been awarded a grant of $1.5 million by the National Institutes of Health to fund an interdisciplinary oncology palliative care education program. Work related to the project will begin immediately.

“Almost every family has or will face a loved one needing cancer care, including curative treatment, symptom control and end-of-life care,” said Mark Pfeifer, MD, chief medical officer for UofL Health Care and principal investigator on this project. “Patients and families need the united services of physicians, nurses, chaplains and social workers.”

 “Palliative care is interdisciplinary but we don’t always do it effectively because students from each profession haven’t been educated together,” explained co-investigator Carla Hermann, Ph.D., R.N, associate professor in the UofL School of Nursing. “This grant enables us to educate nursing, medical, clinical pastoral and social work students in appropriate patient care while developing a more global understanding of the individual professions’ contributions. Nurses bring a lot to palliative care but all of our contributions are more beneficial when we work together.”

The grant will be paid out over five years and the first year will be devoted to the design of an innovative and integrated oncology palliative care curriculum that will include eight learning activities that will become a required part of the curriculum for all third and fourth year nursing students, third-year medical students, master’s level social work students and clinical pastoral education residents.

“We envision using teaching tools that might include clinical rotations, self-study modules, reflective writing and the standardized patient program, in which patient care situations are simulated with real people,” said Marcia Hern, EdD, CNS, RN, dean of the School of Nursing. “From a nursing perspective we are tremendously excited about the promise of this interdisciplinary program. Nursing has a strong tradition of holistic care and this fits right in with that time-honored practice.”

Once the teaching tools are designed and implemented in the curriculum, they will be continually evaluated for their effectiveness, achievement of desired outcomes, integration and sustainability.  The curriculum will aim to demonstrate palliative care’s core principles by integrating the technical, scientific and humanistic elements of holistic care of the cancer patient. It will include experiences that promote collaborative learning and teamwork and broaden interdisciplinary awareness, combine innovative as well as proven learning modalities and technologies and integrate interdisciplinary teaching approaches in both learning and practice of palliative care.

“The receipt of this grant is a great distinction for UofL, where we have a strong tradition of interdisciplinary collaboration and where we are well-positioned to make an even greater impact on the lives of our patients, here in Kentucky where cancer is a particularly serious public health issue,” said Larry Cook, MD, executive vice president for health affairs at UofL’s Health Sciences Center. “It’s important to note that our faculty came up with this idea right here at UofL and won this funding through a highly competitive process.”