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Susquehanna Health Palliative Care and Skilled Nursing Unit Partnership Receives National Attention
By Gwynne Kinley
August 30, 2010
A three-year partnership between the Palliative Care Team at Susquehanna Health Home Care & Hospice and the Muncy Valley Hospital Skilled Nursing Unit (SNU) drew national attention in early August during the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization’s Special Topic Conference 2010 held in Boston, Massachusetts.
The conference, designed for hospice/palliative care nurses, physicians, counselors, social workers and other health care professionals from across the country, revolved around the theme: “Developing the Care Continuum: Innovative Models to Meet the Unique Needs of Patients and Families.”
SH Hospice Director Alexander Nesbitt, MD and Palliative Care Nurse Specialist Nancy Patchen, MS, RN, ACHPN together with Nursing Home Administrator Anne Holladay, CNHA, MHA presented a breakout session at the conference to a standing room only audience. Their presentation, entitled “Developing a Nursing Home/Palliative Care Partnership: Successful Integration of Two Cultures”, included data and methods for:
• Growing a palliative care consult service.
• Benefiting patients, families and staff at skilled nursing units.
• Developing successful relationships between the palliative care team and nursing home physicians, managers and staff.
According to Dr. Nesbitt, a poll of session participants indicated that the majority did not have palliative care consult programs established at skilled nursing units within their local communities.
“There was a very high degree of interest in what was being done here,” he said.
SH Palliative Care provides consult services to 11, local long term care and assisted living facilities by offering symptom control, support for patients and families, help with difficult medical decisions and assistance with patient care for physicians.
“We learned that we are ahead of the curve when it comes to palliative care in the nursing home,” Nesbitt said.
Patchen spoke to developing relationships with nursing home administration and staff, learning the culture and providing education on palliative care for physicians and staff as well as patients and their families.
“Nursing homes are really benefitting from this extra layer of support,” she says. “This [palliative care] is something people are very strongly tuned in to across the country. We have a very good start on this program, especially when compared to larger cities across the country.”
Holladay provided information on the benefits of having a nursing home/palliative care partnership from the perspectives of the nursing home administrator, patients and physicians.
“What we at Susquehanna Health see as a standard of care, the rest of the country sees as beyond the standard, exceptional,” she said. According to Holladay, participants shared enthusiasm about what they could “take away” from the session, offered positive feedback and asked questions about the topic even two days after the presentation. Many of the palliative care organizations represented at the session indicated they were just beginning to develop partnerships with nursing homes.
The beneficiaries of the nursing home/palliative care partnership are truly the patients, Holladay said, because the palliative care team works with each of the physicians and “assesses the whole person—managing all medications to ensure they work in harmony.”
According to Holladay, as a result of the Palliative Care Team’s involvement, hospital re-admission rates at SNU are decreasing. She is currently planning another presentation with Karen Brown, MD to provide technical information on the nursing home/palliative care partnership to an audience of physicians at the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine’s annual assembly in Vancouver, Canada in February 2011.