Professionals Enhance Death and Dying Communication Skills in Series Kickoff

Theresa Brown, RN shared her experience as both a provider and patient.

Despite the increasing attention being given to the need for quality conversations with patients early in the course of serious illness, these conversations still often occur too late in the illness process, and clinicians often feel ill-equipped to engage in these conversations. As part of its ongoing commitment to supporting quality end-of-life conversations with the goal of ensuring patients' wishes for care are met, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) kicked off its second Death and Dying Series for Healthcare Professionals this month. The series is modeled after the popular Death and Dying Fellowship for graduate students but designed to address the specific learning needs of those practicing in the field.

On October 9, 22 professionals with nearly 400 years of combined experience gathered virtually for the first session. Some are relatively new to their role, while others have decades of experience, but they share the common goal of increasing their comfort and skill with having serious illness conversations with patients and families. Their disciplines include social work, nursing education, primary care physician, emergency medicine, care coordination, palliative care, geriatrics, and hospice.

Twenty-two professionals gathered for the first session of the Death & Dying Series for Healthcare Professionals.

The session commenced with JHF COO and Chief Program Officer Nancy Zionts, MBA providing an overview of JHF's long-standing commitment to end-of-life education. JHF Medical Advisor JHF Medical Advisor Dr. Judy Black shared strategies for communicating around serious illness with a focus on advance care planning. Best-selling author, oncology nurse, and former JHF Board member Theresa Brown, RN, shared her experience as both provider and patient to illustrate how clinicians can and must do better in communicating with patients throughout the course of serious illness.

Over the course of the six-week series, participants will hear from experts in serious illness conversation skills, Pennsylvania Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST), goals-of-care discussions, palliative care, oncology, medical aid in dying, hospice, emergency medicine, and getting to what matters to patients. The series will culminate with an opportunity for participants to practice what they've learned as they role-play serious illness conversations in small groups guided by expert facilitators. 

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