It’s an uncomfortable yet necessary part of being a health care professional – knowing how to speak with patients and their families about a terminal condition. The University of Arizona Health Sciences will soon be preparing students for those conversations through a patient-centered educational program on how to provide compassionate end-of-life care.
A $500,000 grant from the David and Lura Lovell Foundation is funding the creation of the new Interprofessional End-of-Life Care Training Program at the UArizona Center on Aging that will build on the current curriculum on the topic. Center Co-Director Mindy Fain, MD, is leading the development of the program to train students to use a multicultural, interdisciplinary approach to end-of-life conversations with patients and families.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to develop, implement and a pilot curriculum in end-of-life advanced illness care,” said Dr. Fain, professor and chief of the Division of Geriatric, General Internal Medicine and Palliative Medicine at the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson. “The unified curriculum we create can be tailored to the needs of students from every health care profession to allow them to better serve patients and their families.”
The program’s goals are to:
- Transform cultural attitudes among UArizona Health Sciences students and faculty about aging, serious illness, death and dying by developing, implementing, evaluating and sustaining an evidence-based, patient-centered education and training program to assure compassionate end-of-life care for patients and their families;
- Ensure every graduating student will have basic competency in serious illness and end-of-life care; and,
- Create a cadre of health care professionals who promote advance care planning.
Lisa O’Neill, DBH, MPH, the Center on Aging’s associate director of education and policy and a clinical assistant professor in the College of Medicine – Tucson, said the new UArizona Health Sciences program will address the needs of health care professionals who serve in diverse roles, from physicians and nurses to pharmacists and public health professionals.
Health Sciences partners include the Colleges of Medicine – Tucson, the colleges of Nursing, Pharmacy and Public Health, the Center for Rural Health and Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine, and Southwest Folklife Alliance. Students who complete the program will be well prepared to address ethnic, gender, LGBTQ+ and age issues related to terminal illness and death, she added.
Lovell Foundation Executive Director John Amoroso said he hopes the program will help end the stigma and discomfort people experience when talking about end-of-life care.
“With this grant, the foundation is trying to ensure that every University of Arizona Health Sciences student has a basic knowledge of how to talk about and provide compassionate end-of-life care for people,” Amoroso said. “This is a critical and, to date, missing piece in realizing ‘person-centered, goal-concordant care’ across the spectrum of life’s health care choices made by Arizonans.”
The Interprofessional End-of-Life Care Training Program will complement other end-of-life initiatives in Arizona as part of the Arizona End of Life Care Partnership, anchored at the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona. The Arizona End of Life Care Partnership is a network of organizations and individuals committed to ensuring quality of life at every stage through education, support, sound policy and choices. The Partnership exists to engage and empower the community to transform the way Arizonans live.