Palliative Care Nurse Has 'Phenomenal' Experience at New Palliative Nursing Leadership Institute

Oct 24, 2012, 12:00 PM, Posted by

By Sally Welsh, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, Chief Executive Officer, The Alliance for Excellence in Hospice and Palliative Nursing


On July 15, 2012, the Palliative Nursing Leadership Institute became a reality.

The institute was a joint project supported by the Hospice and Palliative Nursing Association (HPNA) and the Hospice and Palliative Nursing Foundation (HPNF). Leadership development is a cornerstone of HPNA’s mission statement, which is: “Leading the way to promote excellence in the provision of palliative nursing care through leadership development, education, and the support of research in the field.”

The guiding vision for the Palliative Nursing Leadership Institute is “a national health care system in which every patient has access to quality palliative nursing care.” The mission of the institute is to “develop leaders who will embrace, utilize, and integrate palliative nursing concepts into professional nursing practices throughout the health care system, as achieved through a model of education and mentoring.”

Goals of the institute include:

  1. Foster changes in health care delivery by allowing nurses to practice to the full extent of their education and training in palliative care to affect positive quality-of-life outcomes for patients and families, regardless of the population served or setting of care;
  2. Improve palliative nursing education in academic, clinical and other professional venues;
  3. Lead participants to seek leadership positions in which they may serve as full partners with other health care providers to strategically integrate palliative care concepts and services into the healthcare system; and
  4. Enhance research in palliative care outcomes that will influence policy and decision-making at the national, local, and organizational levels.

The Palliative Nursing Leadership Institute supports the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action goal of “leveraging nursing leadership by enhancing the skills of current nurse leaders so that they can assume leadership roles and serve as full partners with physicians and other health care leaders in delivering increased patient-centered care.”

The institute scholars attend a six-day leadership intensive course. The curriculum includes dynamic and interactive sessions presented by leaders in nursing, leadership, health care, media, advocacy, and technology. The sessions focused on leadership theory, collaboration, change theory, professional development, and communication.

Over the course of two years, the scholars attend quarterly interactive, educational, and mentoring sessions as well as an annual leadership intensive course. They also develop and execute individual projects and work with mentors who are experts in the field of palliative nursing. The mentors assist the scholars in their leadership development and implementation of their projects.

I was one of the individuals selected to participate in the inaugural cohort of the program and am benefiting greatly from the education and professional development sessions. The initial leadership intensive course was a wonderful experience. The skills and knowledge obtained were phenomenal. I was so impacted by one of the sessions that I actually changed the direction of my project. The project I am now working on is “Utilizing Social Media to Create an Identity and Enhance the Presence of a Nursing Leader and a Professional Organization.”

Just as the nursing profession offers nurses the opportunity to practice in various roles and practice settings, the projects being conducted by our cohort of scholars are varied. Jeanne Martinez, RN, MPH, CHPN®, FPCN, is doing a project called “Improving the Coordination and Synergy of Palliative Care in an Academic Medical Center,” and Barbara Raudonis, PhD, RN, FNGNA, FPCN, is doing a project called “Enhancing and Sustaining Principles of Palliative Care in a Baccalaureate Nursing Program Through Circular Change.”

As I reflect upon my nursing career, I am happy to say that I have always enjoyed being a nurse. Throughout the years I have had various roles, which have included direct patient care, education, research, management, and executive leadership positions. The settings have included acute care hospital, home care, hospice and palliative care, and now a professional nursing organization.

Throughout all of these roles and settings, it has always been important to me to know that I was helping improve the lives of individuals and their families, whether on an individual level or by improving programs and services being provided to them. Another thing I have valued is the knowledge and expertise of nurses in all roles and settings; we have different talents and skills but together we make a great impact on the lives of individuals, communities, and our profession.

Over the last several years, my dream has been to work for a national nursing organization. That dream became a reality this summer when I assumed the role of chief executive officer for the Alliance for Excellence in Hospice and Palliative Nursing, which consists of the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association, the National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Nurses, and the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Foundation.

I believe that due to our education and through our use of the nursing process, nurses possess inherent leadership skills and abilities. We work by assessing problems or situations, identifying and implementing solutions, and re-evaluating situations. We also work in teams, are skilled at identifying resources and are well trusted by the public because of our values. I believe it is up to each of us to be a life-long learner, mentor new nurses and other team members, and to contribute to our profession and to society.

The Palliative Nursing Leadership Institute provides an opportunity for me to enhance my leadership skills and supports me in my journey to lead the way to promote excellence in palliative nursing care.

Read more about nurses’ role in providing palliative care here.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.