Palliative care focuses on managing the symptoms and stress that accompany serious illnesses. This certificate from the College of Professional and Continuing Studies trains nurses in this fast-growing specialization.

Today, 12 million adults and nearly 400,000 children in the United States live with serious illness.

According to the Center to Advance Palliative Care, that number has increased over the last two decades and it will only continue to increase over the next two as baby boomers age. In response, the number of hospitals in the United States with a palliative care program has nearly doubled over the last 10 years and the number of palliative care programs in nursing homes and home health agencies has also increased.

At a time when the need for specific training in palliative care has grown, Adelphi University is there to meet it. Its new palliative care certificate program is one of only a handful that provides this training exclusively to registered nurses and advanced practice registered nurses. Applications are currently being accepted for the new cohort starting in September.

“Adelphi University is very excited to be offering this important opportunity,” said Andy Atzert, EdD, the dean of the College of Professional and Continuing Studies. “Palliative care is a fast-growing field and this program fills a crucial need in the nursing community, and in the world.”

Palliative care vs. traditional medical care vs. hospice

Palliative care is team-led medical care focusing on providing relief from the symptoms and stress that come from living with serious illness. It differs from traditional medical care, which focuses solely on treating the underlying disease or condition.

Palliative care is often confused with hospice care, said nurse practitioner Fern Baudo, EdD, who is an adjunct faculty member in the College of Nursing and Public Health and one of the professors teaching in the new program. She is the author of If I Only Knew: Making Educated Medical Decisions As We Navigate Through Life’s Journey.

“Palliative care provides support while extending life treatments that the patient can choose,” she said. “With hospice, the goal is no longer about extending life. There’s no longer a conflict between keeping the blood pressure up or making the patient comfortable. Hospice is about providing comfort.”

Hospice is based on prognosis and it comes at the end of life. Palliative care is based on need and it’s appropriate at any stage of serious illness. Those most commonly treated with palliative care are living with illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease. Receiving palliative care can reduce depression, improve quality of life and extend lifespans.

Medical advances mean people are living longer with chronic progressive diseases, said Kathleen Broglio, DNP, who is also an adjunct faculty member at Adelphi and a nurse practitioner in the Section of Palliative Medicine at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and Clinics. Palliative care professionals partner with the person’s primary treatment teams—such as oncologists, pulmonologists, cardiologists and nephrologists—in order to help minimize distressing symptoms and improve quality of life.

For example, a 40-year-old father of three with pulmonary artery hypertension was recently referred to Dr. Broglio. He was taking an essential medication that was so debilitating it had left him in bed for over a year and he was considering discontinuing treatment. She and her team prescribed other medicines that countered the effects of the debilitating one.

“Now he’s out playing basketball with his kids,” she said. “He’s fully engaged in his life. This should have been managed in his heart failure clinic, because we know that this medicine has horrible side effects. If practitioners have basic training in symptom management, then not everyone needs to be referred to a palliative specialist.”

What students are learning

“This core course is not about making people experts in palliative care,” said Dr. Broglio, who is an associate professor of medicine at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine. She teaches the pain management section of the certificate program.

“Every clinician should be able to provide primary palliative care, and this course provides that,” she said. “They should be able to manage some symptoms related to the serious illness and to have some conversations about what’s important to the person.”

Denise Albano, DNP, adjunct faculty member at Adelphi and director of operations at the Lung Cancer Evaluation Center at Stony Brook Cancer Center, teaches the section on chronic diseases. In her sessions, she does deep dives into illnesses including liver failure, kidney failure and respiratory failure. She explains what to expect, what symptoms to look for and treatments. In addition, she includes pictures and videos of patients with these conditions so the students can see what someone with this condition actually looks like.

“If you ask students to look for liver or heart failure, what does that mean in the palliative setting?” she said. “What happened, why do they look like that? These conditions all come with symptoms, and understanding them means being able to give better quality care in a shorter amount of time.”

Who should take the course?

“Providers like myself, who are passionate about palliative care and hospice, who seek to provide care and comfort, which is more often than not addressed by treatment that extends someone’s time on this earth,” Dr. Baudo said.

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