Franciscan Hospice and Palliative Care launches academy

September 15, 2013


Tacoma, Wash.-based Franciscan Hospice and Palliative Care is opening an academy to train clinicians to provide palliative medical care for patients with serious illnesses, said leadership involved with the effort.

The Palliative Care Academy, which opens at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma with a pilot program this month, will train physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants in general principles of palliative care: how to provide relief from the symptoms, pain and stress of a serious illness.

Dr. Mimi Pattison, medical director for Franciscan Hospice and Palliative Care, said many of the skills the academy will cover aren't routinely taught to clinicians who don't specialize in palliative care. "We're talking (about) a lot more than pain management. We're talking symptom management, and we're talking communication skills and being able to have difficult conversations," she said. Clinicians will receive training in everything from pharmacology related to pain and symptom management to prognosticating, or how to better help patients understand a disease's trajectory and what it may mean for their quality of life moving forward.

While initially program participants will largely come from the Franciscan Health System, the academy will be open to health care practitioners from outside of the system as well.

Academy organizers, referencing a 2011 report by the Center to Advance Palliative Care, say it's estimated that there is one cardiologist for about every 70 people who experience a heart attack in the U.S., but only one palliative care specialist for roughly every 1,200 people with a serious or life-threatening illness. Tammy Bhang, nurse practitioner with Franciscan's palliative care department, said, "There's really a move in the field to provide generalist training — to reserve the more complicated cases to specialists in palliative care, but for all practitioners to provide palliative care at the generalist level."

The program at first will be funded by a two-year, $250,000 grant from the Cambia Health Foundation in Portland, Ore., which is the foundation of Cambia Health Solutions. Cambia companies include health care information technology, software development, health insurance plans, life insurance and pharmacy benefit management.

The goal is to make the academy self-sustaining, though organizers said they still are determining future funding sources. There will be no cost to academy participants for the training; in time, that could change. The five-day course will be open to six clinicians at a time. Initially it will be offered once a month, and then, starting in March, once every three weeks, said Bhang.

Clinicians seeking training beyond the five-day course can return for more in-depth training, customized to their respective needs. Clinicians who complete the academy will qualify for continuing medical education credits.

Franciscan Hospice and Palliative Care received CHA's Achievement Citation in 2010 for its innovative programs embodying the Catholic health mission.


Copyright © 2013 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2013 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.