RCGC and Inspira Health Network educate about nursing patients who are near the end of life

Press release issued by Rowan College at Gloucester County

Susan Davis (left) of West Deptford, an ICU nurse at Inspira in Woodbury, and Vanessa Van Brill (center) of Mullica Hill, an RN at Inspira in Vineland, attended the End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium at Rowan College at Gloucester County (RCGC) on May 19. The two RCGC alumnae took time to catch up with Assistant Professor Gina Galosi during the break.

End-of-life discussions are never easy — for the patient, family members, friends, even doctors and nurses. On Thursday, May 19, Rowan College at Gloucester County (RCGC), in cooperation with Inspira Health Network and the New Jersey Garden Area Education Center, hosted an End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium training workshop to better prepare nurses when providing palliative care to their patients.

The program, held in the College’s Nursing and Allied Health Center, helped local nurses to fully understand their role in providing quality palliative care for patients throughout their lifespan. Topics focused on introducing strategies to manage care for patients with serious illnesses and those nearing the end of their lives, in addition to providing nurses with support systems to cope with death anxiety and loss. Speakers participating in the training course included RCGC Nursing and Allied Health faculty member, Linda Canonica, DNP, RN, CNE, Inspira Woodbury Supportive and Palliative Care Nurse Coordinator Sharon Health, BSN, RN, CCRN, CHPC, and Inspira Vineland Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner Jonathan Paolini, DNP, ACHPN, AGACNP-BC.

“Everyone dies, but we rarely prepare for death,” said Canonica. “I hope this program is a starting point to advance education and knowledge about palliative care, and about planning for the future.”

Ninety nurses attended the event, including 10 RCGC faculty members. Two of the nurses, Susan Davis, of West Deptford and Vanessa Van Brill, of Mullica Hill, returned to their alma mater happy to catch up with past instructors and learn more about assisting patients during the final phase of their lives.

For Davis, an intensive care unit nurse at Inspira in Woodbury, palliative care is a critical part of her job. It is a benefit that helps the entire family during a difficult time.

“I tell my patients, ‘You are driving the ship. Let’s make the most of what is in the ship.’ Palliative care is not curing the disease. It’s optimizing their health in the time that they have left,” said Davis, a 2007 Gloucester County College (now RCGC) grad and a member of Inspira’s Palliative Steering Committee. “Being together as a family at the end of life is beautiful. Death can be as beautiful as birth.”

Van Brill, a registered nurse at Inspira in Vineland and a member of RCGC’s nursing class of 2015, attended the workshop for independent research study. She explained that patients often feel pressured by family members to push themselves or to try different treatments when there is no cure.

“If patients only want to sit and enjoy their favorite television shows and it makes them happy as they approach the end of life, that okay. There is a huge lack of knowledge. It’s not about curing the disease. It’s about making the most of the time you have left,” said Van Brill. “Nurses need to take the initiative to talk to their patients, to offer palliative care. This is getting back to the core of nursing.”

The End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium Project is a national educational program administered by City of Hope and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing designed to enhance palliative care in nursing.

“Palliative care is an example of inter-professional collaboration. Providing support and resources from various members of the healthcare team is an integral part of implementing the best possible care to patients and their families,” stated RCGC Dean of Nursing and Allied Health Dr. Susan Hall. “The members of the RCGC community are grateful to the Inspria Health Network for their joint effort on this project. Our partnership is one that has a long history and we look forward to ongoing sharing of clinical knowledge and resources.”

For more information on RCGC’s award-winning Nursing program, visit RCGC.edu/Nursing. Rowan College at Gloucester County is located at 1400 Tanyard Road in Deptford, just off Exit 56 of Route 55.