Palliative care is now viewed as much more than end-of-life care. It focuses on ongoing quality of life and well-being and is integral to the treatment of cancer patients from time of diagnosis throughout the trajectory of the illness, said Mark Pfeifer, MD, chief medical officer for UofL Health Care and principal investigator on this project.

Almost every family has or will face a loved one needing cancer care, including curative treatment, symptom control and end-of-life care, he said. Patients and families need the united services of physicians, nurses, chaplains and social workers, and there is a real need for health professionals to be educated in an interdisciplinary manner to prepare them for the real-world team environments they experience once they are in practice.

The multidisciplinary team working on the program will have representatives from the schools of medicine, nursing and social work and from the clinical pastoral education programs of three Louisville hospitals.

We are all doing great work and are dedicated to the patients…. If we are able to work more seamlessly together, drawing on each other’s capabilities more fluidly, we will be able to offer even better care to patients, said Terry Singer, dean of the Kent School of Social Work.

NIH will pay the grant over five years.

The team will devote the first year to the design of an innovative and integrated oncology palliative care curriculum that will include eight learning activities, and it will be required for all third-year medical students, third- and fourth-year nursing students, master’s level social work students and clinical pastoral education residents.

The curriculum will be designed to demonstrate palliative care’s core principles by integrating the technical, scientific and humanistic elements of holistic care for cancer patients. It will include experiences that promote collaborative learning and teamwork and that broaden interdisciplinary awareness, combine innovative and proven learning modes and technologies and integrate interdisciplinary teaching approaches in both learning and the practice of palliative care.

In addition to developing a curriculum, the team also will identify teaching tools.

Those tools could include clinical rotations, self-study modules, reflective writing and UofL’s standardized patient program, in which patient care situations are simulated with real people, said Marcia Hern, dean of the UofL School of Nursing.

The team will continually evaluate the teaching tools for their effectiveness, achievement of desired outcomes, integration and sustainability.

The receipt of this grant is a great distinction for UofL, said Larry Cook, MD, executive vice president for health affairs at UofL’s Health Sciences Center. It’s important to note that our faculty came up with this idea right here at UofL and won this funding through a highly competitive process.