Within months of beginning training in UC San Francisco School of Nursing’s Master’s Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN), Julia Itsikson observed a palliative care intervention for a middle-aged man with mesothelioma.
“The family was struggling to accept a devastating diagnosis and poor prognosis, but because of the palliative care team’s approach to this complicated and sensitive issue, both the patient and the family became more receptive to new goals of care that focused on comfort measures rather than aggressive treatment,” says Itsikson. “It got me interested.”
Now a student in the School’s recently established minor in palliative care, Itsikson joins a growing number of individuals, communities, policymakers and health care professionals calling for greater access to palliative care services – and more training for clinicians.
Beyond Hospice, Filling a Need
Palliative care assumes that patients who suffer from serious, life-limiting disease – not just those actively dying – need symptom relief and supportive care to ease the stress of coping with their illness. Multiple studies have shown that palliation can significantly improve patients’ quality of life – and, in some cases, prolong it.
Perhaps that’s why so many local hospitals and clinics urged the School to step up its palliative care training, says faculty member DorAnne Donesky, who led the School’s effort to establish its minor. She is among those who see the benefits of palliative care every day, in her clinical work with patients who have chronic pulmonary disease.