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College Launches Palliative Care Nursing Program

With funding from a three-year, $728,000 grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services, the Boston College William F.// Connell School of Nursing has established a new palliative care nursing specialty in its master of science degree program. Palliative care nursing provides care for patients with serious and life-threatening illnesses or injuries. Boston College is the first college or university in New England to offer palliative care nursing as a master's degree program, according to program administrators.

The program will be directed by CSON Associate Dean for Graduate Programs Patricia Tabloski, a nationally-noted expert on care of the elderly and one of the pioneers of hospice care. While "hospice is great," says Tabloski, it is usually limited to patients with less than six months of life expectancy who forgo active treatment. Statistics show that more than one third of hospice patients die within a week of enrolling. The question, says Tabloski, is "how can we pick up these patients sooner?"

Palliative care offers treatment for seriously or chronically ill patients to relieve their suffering, control symptoms and keep them functioning at the highest level possible. "Serious illnesses can affect anyone at any point in his or her life," added Tabloski.

Palliative care is guided by the patient's needs and involves the patient's family. "We'll be teaching students the art of nursing as well as the science," says Tabloski. "The best medicine is not always the most medicine. Quality of life is also important."

The Connell School of Nursing's palliative care program will also take strides to address the shortfall of this type of care among racial and ethnic minorities. "There is mistrust among some in this population," explains Tabloski, "and as a whole they are diagnosed later, are sometimes treated less aggressively and have poorer outcomes. Our program's goal is to prepare nurses to provide culturally s ensitive care to seriously ill minority patients and their families."

Graduates of the advanced practice program in palliative care nursing will be eligible to take the certification exam offered by the National Board of Certification of Hospice and Palliative Nurses. Nurses with palliative care training could work in hospitals, home care agencies and nursing homes. The first course in the program will be offered in the summer of 2007.

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