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BC To Offer New Palliative Care Certificate

Boston College is now offering an Interdisciplinary Palliative Care Certificate (IDPCC) for graduate students in the Connell School of Nursing, School of Social Work, and the School of Theology and Ministry. The program aims to attract individuals who have experience in or exposure to hospice care, according to Teresa Schirmer, associate dean of the School of Social Work.

CSON professor Susan DeSanto-Madeya will direct the program, although the certificate is awarded by BC—rather than through any of the three schools—upon completion.

Schirmer said that it is important that palliative caregivers receive an interdisciplinary education because it’s sometimes difficult for care providers to address the variety of concerns that patients may have as they approach the end of their lives.

Palliative care helps patients with chronic or fatal illnesses address physical pain and mental stress, and it often encompasses early stages, such as identification, as well as assisting families with their distress, Schirmer said.

“That’s where the nursing, the theology, and the social work really complement each other because a social worker may come in and talk about how it’s impacting the family, how it’s impacting the person, what their wishes and dreams are for the rest of their days, and nursing can also provide them with medical information,” Schirmer said.

Schirmer said the program will be a good opportunity to increase understanding between students of the three disciplines, as it will expose students to personnel in different fields that they will encounter on the job.

“I think all three treatment providers can really collaborate nicely in the classroom and bring in their experiences,” Schirmer said. “These are all practical degrees so people have been in the hospital, they’ve been in the community, they’ve worked with individuals. That pieces of it is going to make the conversation really rich in the classroom.”

Students will be encouraged to bring their personal experiences and insights to in-class discussions, Schimer said.

“If we give them this opportunity to collaborate with their future peers and colleagues, this is fabulous because I think there is going to be this respect, this understanding of how we all work together for the best interest of the patient,” Schimer said.

Recent trends in the industry have made palliative care training increasingly popular—the proportion of hospitals with palliative care programs tripled from 2000 to 2016, according to Schirmer.

The program is the brain child of Katie McInnis-Dittrich, a recently-retired professor in the School of Social Work, who was the driving force behind the development of the program, Schirmer said. McInnis-Dittrich holds a position of the advisory board for the certificate program.

“She has been a champion, working with older adults in the community and she knew that this was going on in the community and that we needed to train our students to work with nurses and pastoral care really effectively,” Schirmer said.

The certificate requires students to complete four courses, beginning with the School of Social Work’s Dying, Grief, and Bereavement class, which is required for all students. They can choose two or three electives in CSON: Serious Illness, Death and Dying; Responding to Suffering in Serious Illness, Death and Dying; and Interdisciplinary Leadership in Palliative Care. They must also take either Grief and Loss or Death and Dying from the School of Theology and Ministry.

Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Senior Staff

November 7, 2019