Are we preparing our health care professionals to provide excellent care for the dying?

Are we preparing our health care professionals to provide excellent care for the dying?

Life & Death Matters Post

I used to think that all dying people should be registered with a hospice organization, receive Cadillac services, and die supported by the specialty care team.

Over the past few years I have been intrigued by the work of Palliative Care Australia (PCA). PCA suggests that the majority of the dying can and will be cared for and have their needs met by their primary care teams, and not by the specialty hospice palliative care services. This means that rather than working to increase referrals to hospice programs that we need to educate all members of the health care team to provide care for the dying, across all settings.

What is happening across Canada to prepare the health care team during their core curriculum to provide excellent care for the dying?

Registered Nurses – In 2009 the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing (CASN) announced “a new educational resource developed by the CASN Task Force on Palliative and end-of-life care to assist educators in curriculum development. See In March 2011 CASN Task Force met in Ottawa and with input from Stakeholders revised this list. For more information and updated resource contact the CASN office.

Practical Nurses –The National Blueprint for 2012-2016 is now available. My limited understanding is that the Blueprint only outlines knowledge that can be tested on a multiple choice exam. The Blueprint does not contain competencies or indicators. Does anyone have information on national or provincial projects to address the development of Palliative End of Life Competencies within core curriculum for Practical Nurses?

Health Care Workers (HCW) A national committee is currently developing competencies for “unregulated caregivers” to help standardize education and increase job mobility. Considering that HCWs are often the eyes, the ears and the hands of the health care team, and they provide care that is critical to the implementation of any Care Plan, it is my great hope that the committee will address competencies related to Hospice Palliative End of Life.

Physicians Competencies have been developed for educating Medical Students (Educating Future Physicians in End of Life Care EFPEC) and similarly competencies are currently being developed for Social Workers. I am not sure what is being done for educating pharmacists and other members of the health care team.

If anyone has further updates or information, please add to the discussion! Go to



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Courtney Murrell is a PSW who works in hospice palliative care.

When she is not at work, she is spending time with her family, going on hikes or writing. Courtney is a lifelong learner and loves to share her passion for writing as a wellness practice.

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