As a medical specialty, the field of palliative care has gained significant traction in the last ten years. Today, there are more than 7,600 board-certified palliative care physicians and 18,000 palliative care–certified nurses. In addition, the Social Hospice & Palliative Care Network released a palliative care certification program specifically for chaplains, physician’s assistance and pharmacists.
Despite this progress, an insufficient workforce and workforce pipeline remains one of the biggest challenges in meeting the needs of patients living with a serious illness, and their families. Currently, there is only one palliative care physician per 1,200 people with serious illness in the United States. By 2030, research suggests that there will only be one palliative care physician for every 26,000 patients with similar shortages are forecasted for nurses, social workers and spiritual care providers with expertise in palliative care.
As a result, investments in workforce training and development are crucial. Since 2007, the Cambia Health Foundation, has invested more than $36 million into the design and implementation of quality palliative care programs including its Sojourns® Scholar Leadership program, which identifies, cultivates and advances the next generation of palliative care leaders.
These emerging leaders, who are selected each year from a highly competitive pool of candidates from across the interdisciplinary team, conduct an innovative project tied to a leadership development plan that positions the scholar for growth as leader in the field of palliative care.
One such impactful project, spearheaded by 2014 Sojourns Scholar, Dr. Caroline Hurd, is the University of Washington (UW) Graduate Certificate in Palliative Care. This innovative training program, now in its fifth year, is working to close the workforce gap and improve access to palliative care by addressing the lack of trained clinicians in rural areas and embedded programs within primary care and specialty medicine.
“Increasing access to palliative care for everyone comes down to more than training additional prescribing providers. It also requires educating a more diverse, interprofessional team of clinicians to deliver whole-person care. That way, we can address all aspects of a person’s well-being, mindful of who is best suited to meet their needs. Working synergistically with a team and sharing responsibility for the patient lessens the burden on any one clinician, while also providing higher-quality care. This reduces burnout—and that’s critical to supporting sustainable health care systems.” – Caroline Hurd MD
Read Bringing Palliative Care to More People, a whitepaper, that spotlights the graduate certificate program in palliative care at the UW, its recent expansions through partnerships in Oregon, Eastern Washington and Idaho and positive testimonials from some of the providers who have participated in the training.
Improving Palliative Care Accessibility
An insufficient workforce is one of the biggest challenges in meeting the needs of patients living with a serious illness, and their families. One innovative project working to address this gap is the University of Washington (UW) Graduate Certificate in Palliative Care.
By Mary Frances Baldes