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Nursing Professionals Unite to Improve End-of-Life Care for Patients and Families

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Posted: 10/5/2000

Leaders from 22 national nursing organizations representing 463,000 nurses gathered September 10-14 in Baltimore to attend the Nursing Leadership Academy in End-of-Life Care. The Academy was designed to educate, train, and organize a network of nursing leaders prepared to galvanize the profession and transform end-of-life care. The Academy, created by the Institute for Johns Hopkins Nursing, was funded by a grant from the Open Society Institute’s Project on Death in America.

“Nurses in all practice settings and roles are faced with the daily challenges of providing humane, dignified end-of-life care to patients and their families. This issue is shared by the entire nursing profession,” says Cynthia Rushton, DNSc, RN, assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and Academy organizer. “We, as nurses, have made a commitment to move forward and advance the nursing profession’s capabilities for delivering quality end-of-life care to patients and their families in all settings.”

The Nursing Leadership Academy in End-of-Life Care was developed in response to great demand from within the nursing profession. The need for increased leadership capacity was defined as a strategic priority at the 1999 Nursing Leadership Consortium on End-of-Life Care, also led by Cynthia Rushton and funded by the Project on Death in America. 

Nomination to the Academy was competitive, and designed to identify those nurses most likely to successfully implement changes to improve the care of dying patients and advance the field of palliative care. Leadership Academy participants developed specific plans for their respective organizations designed to generate the greatest impact on the field as a whole:

  • The Oncology Nursing Society and the Oncology Nursing Society Foundation committed $20,000 seed money to initiate ten grassroots community projects on end-of-life issues, using the Bill Moyers PBS series On Our Own Terms as a model.

  • The Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association is developing a network of nursing experts in end-of-life care to serve as resources to nursing leaders nationwide.

  • The Association of Pediatric Oncology Nurses will conduct a pilot study to determine beliefs and attitudes which affect the ability of pediatric nurses to provide quality palliative care.

  • The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses will develop standard practice guidelines to apply to end-of-life care, identify gaps in knowledge, and propose new directions for research on topics such as patient comfort, compassionate care, symptom management, and withholding and withdrawing life sustaining treatments.

“Every person has the right to die with dignity in a manner he or she feels is appropriate,” said Marcia Kucler from the Academy of Medical Surgical Nurses, an Academy participant. “Nurses confront end-of-life issues every day and understand the dire need for quality palliative care. This Academy showed us how critical it is for all nurses to stand behind this issue as a unifying force for the profession. If we speak with one voice, nurses can make a difference in the way palliative care is delivered to individuals, families, and communities.”

The Institute for Johns Hopkins Nursing, which created the Nursing Leadership Academy in End-of-Life Care, is a joint venture of the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and the Johns Hopkins Hospital Department of Nursing. The mission of the Institute for Johns Hopkins Nursing is to develop and share innovations in nursing practice, science and scholarship.


The Nursing Leadership Academy in End-of-Life Care
Participating Nursing Organizations 

Academy of Medical Surgical Nurses
American Association for Continuity of Care
American Association of Critical-Care Nurses
American College of Nurse Practitioners
American Nephrology Nurses' Association
American Nurses Association
American Society of Ophthalmic Registered Nurses
American Society of Pain Management Nurses
Association of Pediatric Oncology Nurses
Emergency Nurses Association
Home Healthcare Nurses Association
Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association
International Society of Psychiatric Nurses
National Association of Neonatal Nurses
National Council of State Boards of Nursing
National Gerontological Nursing Association
Oncology Nursing Society
Respiratory Nursing Society
Sigma Theta Tau International
Society of Pediatric Nurses
Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates
Society of Urologic Nurses and Associates