AACN Endorses Palliative Care Competencies and Recommendations for Undergraduate Nursing Education

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 9, 2016 – The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is pleased to announce its support for a new set of competencies and recommendations that will guide the education of future nurses on providing quality end-of-life care. Titled Palliative CARES – Competencies And Recommendations for Educating undergraduate nursing Students – the AACN Board of Directors voted to endorse this document at its January 2016 meeting in Naples, FL.

"From initial diagnosis through the end of life, nurses spend more time with seriously ill patients and their families than any other healthcare provider," said Betty Ferrell, PhD, RN, FPCN, FAAN, Principal Investigator of ELNEC. "Educating nurses to provide quality palliative care across the lifespan in various clinical and community settings is critical as the population ages and patient acuity grows. As a result, the demand for new nurse graduates with a proficiency in palliative care is increasing in response to the greater number of people living with serious illness."

The CARES document is a timely update and revision of the 1998 Peaceful Death document published by AACN, which has served as the foundation for improving undergraduate end-of-life nursing education. This seminal work has been used extensively over the past 18 years in the development of various End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC) curricula, which have been presented to over 20,700 nursing students, faculty, professional development educators, and clinicians in every state and in 88 countries worldwide and has been translated into eight languages. The ELNEC Project is a partnership between AACN and the City of Hope Medical Center in Duarte, CA.

With generous funding provided by the Cambia Health Foundation, the new CARES document was developed by 25 nursing faculty and clinical leaders with expertise in palliative care. The document provides the historical perspective of palliative care nursing education, outlines the current status of educational needs in undergraduate nursing programs, and most importantly, identifies 17 palliative care competencies that student nurses should achieve before graduation. In addition, recommendations for incorporating the new palliative care competencies into nursing courses are embedded in the document, along with their alignment within the AACN Essentials of Baccalaureate Education for Professional Nursing Practice.

In an effort to assist faculty in meeting these new competencies, the Cambia Health Foundation is providing $800,000 in funding to support the development of an interactive online undergraduate ELNEC curriculum. "Cambia Health Foundation is pleased to invest in this innovative work to help increase access to palliative care in rural areas, standardize palliative care nursing nationally, and strengthen the palliative care workforce nationwide," said Elyse Salend, Cambia Health Foundation program officer.

The online format will make this curriculum available to all 92 nursing programs in the grant-funded project states (Idaho, Utah, Oregon and Washington), beginning in January 2017. Plans are underway for dissemination to nursing schools in the remaining 46 states, for a nominal fee.

"We congratulate ELNEC for a remarkable 16 years of providing state-of-the-art palliative care education to nurses and other providers around the world," said Eileen T. Breslin, AACN Board Chair. "Developing an online curriculum will extend the reach of this work, especially in rural areas where access to education and nursing services may be limited. AACN applauds the Cambia Health Foundation for supporting this initiative, which will enhance the preparation of professional nurses nationwide."

To review the CARES document and the list of faculty and leaders who consulted on developing these competencies, click here.

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