Genesee Community College Nursing Program Collaborates with Office of the Aging

Planning advanced care for an aging family member can be a difficult and daunting process, but students in Genesee Community College’s nursing program are learning how to help patients and their families navigate through these complex issues. With the help of a $35,000 grant from the Community Health Foundation of Western and Central New York, the College, in collaboration with the Genesee County Office for the Aging, is sending two faculty members to a three-day Respecting Choices Advance Care Planning Course at the Gundersen Lutheran Medical Foundation in La Crosse, WI.

Gundersen Lutheran Health System has been named among the Top 100 in the nation and is a recognized leader in the area of advance care planning facilitation. The course, which takes place in October 2007, focuses on developing a system of training, practices, and policies for advance care planning and end-of-life decision making so that it becomes the routine – the expected care – throughout a health organization and a community. Once the Genesee faculty members have completed the course, they will be certified as course instructors and bring what they’ve learned back to the College and other organizations.

“There is a tremendous need for good advance care planning, especially now with our aging population,” said Pamela Whitmore, Director of the Genesee County Office of the Aging. “It is important not only to ensure that an individual’s wishes are carried out, but to ease the family’s concerns by helping them prepare in advance.”

The goals of advance care planning are to ensure clinical care consistent with patient preferences, to improve the decision-making process, to improve a patient’s well-being, and to reduce a patient’s concern regarding a possible burden being placed on family and others. Respecting Choices incorporates community engagement, professional education, and organization/community standards of practice to help improve care at the end of life.

“We are very happy to be working with the college,” Whitmore said. “The nursing students will start their careers with a sound philosophy about the end-of-life stage that will be beneficial to everyone involved, especially to the seniors they serve.”

Genesee Community College is one of the first colleges to actively take part in Gundersen’s Respecting Choices program. Representatives from Gundersen have asked the College to develop an evaluation of this course, which is offered nationwide, to measure its impact and effectiveness within Genesee’s nursing curriculum. Project results may be published and presented at appropriate national conferences.

“We are so pleased that Genesee Community College is weaving the Respecting Choices facilitator training into the nursing program,” said Linda Briggs, Associate Director of Respecting Choices and Ethics Consultant at Gundersen. “The College’s partnership with the Office of the Aging is such a wonderful idea, providing a relevant clinical experience for the students, and giving back to the elders in your community.”

The College is taking other proactive steps to educate students about end-of-life issues, including the development of a new lifespan course that will be offered next year and sending students out into the community to share their knowledge as part of a final assignment.

“There is no doubt that this is becoming an important issue in today’s aging society,” said Kathy Hankel, Director of Nursing at Genesee Community College. “As our students begin their nursing careers, our goal is to make sure they are prepared and in a position to help patients and families.”

For more information about Genesee Community College’s nursing program, contact Hankel at (585) 343-0055 x6367.

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Editor’s Note: National Nurses Week begins each year on May 6 and ends on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. The purpose of National Nurses Week is to raise awareness of the value of nursing and help educate the public about the role nurses play in meeting the health care needs of the American people.