Leading the Way to Educate Nurses Around the Globe in Palliative Care
The End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC) Project gives nurses the knowledge and skills required to provide specialised care and to positively impact the lives of patients and families facing serious illness or the end of lives. This means that nurses are able care for patients with serious illness and their families, across the lifespan and across the disease trajectory from diagnosis of serious illness through to the end of life.
Ninety million people in the U.S. are currently living with a serious, life-threatening illness and that number is rising as more medical treatments become available for chronic conditions. Patients are living longer, but many are suffering pain and the symptoms associated with these serious illnesses, and they and their families are struggling to cope.
Although efforts to improve palliative care education have been made since the late 1990s, much remains to be done to achieve quality palliative care as outlined in the National Consensus Project Guidelines for Quality Palliative Care (National Consensus Project for Quality Palliative Care 2018).
Many practising professionals continue to have limited or no training on palliative care during their professional education programmes. The findings of the 2014 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, Dying in America, demonstrate the need for more professional education, especially in the areas of communication and advanced care planning for those with serious illness and their families (Institute of Medicine 2014).
Despite initial efforts to train faculty staff from schools of nursing, many nursing programmes have not incorporated palliative nursing content into to their curricula. Nursing students need to learn to work collaboratively with the inter-professional team, to assess and manage common pain and other symptoms associated with serious illness, support patients and families in health care decision-making and transitions of care, and provide compassionate and skilful end-of-life care to dying patients, and bereavement care to people who are grieving.
The ELNEC project, under the leadership of Dr. Betty Ferrell at City of Hope Medical Center, is a national education initiative with a mission to improve palliative care within the United States and internationally. ELNEC is a partnership between the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and the City of Hope Medical Center. The project provides undergraduate and graduate nursing faculty, staff development educators, specialty nurses in paediatrics, oncology, critical care, and geriatrics, and other nurses, with palliative care training. Once trained, these healthcare professionals go on to teach this essential information to nursing students and practicing nurses.
To date, the ELNEC project has educated more than 23,400 trainers who have gone on to educate more than 702,000 nurses and other interprofessional health care providers. While the initial efforts were focused in the United States, many ELNEC trainers have had opportunities to travel internationally and provide this education to nurses and other healthcare providers throughout the world. Currently, ELNEC trainers and faculty have travelled to 98 countries on six continents.
Many trainers have provided ELNEC educational courses, while others have gone as consultants to work with educators, health administrators and community leaders to improve care for the seriously ill in their countries. It is estimated that more than 25,000 nurses and other healthcare providers have received ELNEC training internationally. The curriculum has been translated into eight languages and is being used to educate nurses around the world (American Association of Colleges of Nursing 2018).
As a nursing leader, researcher and educator, Dr Ferrell is committed to providing quality care and nursing excellence to patients and their families at a time when they need it most. The ELNEC Programme has significantly improved palliative nursing education. As frontline workers in healthcare, nurses know all too well the impact a terminal illness has on a patient and their family and friends. Through enhanced end-of life nursing education nurses are equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to support those who need it during the most venerable stage of their lives.
American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2018). ELNEC Fact Sheet. Retrieved from www.aacnnursing/elnec
Institute of Medicine. (2014). Dying in America Improving Quality and Honoring Individual Preferences Near the End of Life. Retrieved from http://www.nationalacademies.org/hmd/~/media/Files/Report%20Files/2014/EOL/Report%20Brief.pdf
National Consensus Project for Quality Palliative Care. (2018). Clinical Practice Guidelines for Quality Palliative Care (4 ed.). Richmond, VA: National Coalition for Hospice and Palliative Care. Retrieved from www.nationalcoalitionhpc.org/ncp/