With longer life spans and medical advancements for treating illness, older Americans are experiencing greater burden from multiple progressive chronic diseases, including chronic pain, loss of function, and increasing dependence on family and friends for support.
This shift requires preparing interprofessional healthcare providers to meet the unique needs of older adults. To address this need, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) provided funding to the George Washington University School of Nursing to produce the Geriatrics Education Using a Palliative Care Framework (GEPaC). The interdisciplinary nature of this curriculum is key. Faculty from the GW Health Sciences, GW School of Nursing and the Department of Clinical Research & Leadership are developing the curriculum. This includes faculty who are nurses, physicians, physician assistants, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and counselors.
The GePaC curriculum includes six online modules designed to educate nurses, advanced practice nurses, occupational and physical therapists, physician assistants, and other clinicians in an integrated geriatric palliative approach. The modules in the curriculum include:
- Geriatric Palliative Care: integrating the clinical, goals-oriented focus of geriatrics and the holistic, compassion-oriented focus of palliative care
- Person and Family-Centered Care: prioritizing patient and family needs, preferences, physical and psychological development, experiences and routines in goal setting and care planning
- Interdisciplinary Collaboration: collaborative strategies and the integration of appropriate healthcare professionals to maintain independence, prevent or relieve suffering, and promote optimum health
- Communication: facilitating effective dialogue and informed decision-making amongst patients, families and other providers, considering psychosocial needs, cognitive and other abilities
- Quality of Life: supporting critical patient and family issues that impact their health, coping, death and bereavement, taking into account expected patterns and normal variations of growth and development
- Multidimensional Approach to Suffering: effectively incorporating and managing the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual aspects of suffering
These innovative online learning modules integrate a variety of media, case examples, and interactive activities to engage and motivate learners. To maximize flexibility, the modules can be used individually, together with traditional classroom instruction, or in purely online settings. The curriculum also includes an instructor guide to support educators in effectively integrating the modules with other learning experiences.
Beverly Lunsford, PhD