House Approves Hospice Education Act

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA), according to the office of Rep. Eliot Engels (D-N.Y.). The bill, which Engels introduced in January, had 294 bipartisan cosponsors.

If enacted, PCHETA would establish fellowship programs within new palliative care and hospice education centers to provide short-term, intensive training on palliative care and hospice. The courses would provide supplemental training for medical school faculty as well as other educators in health care fields such as nursing, pharmacy, social work and chaplaincy.

The centers would also develop curricula related to palliative care and support continuing education, retraining of faculty, practical clinical training and establish training programs for advanced practice nurses.

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The bill will next go to the Senate where it currently has 33 co-sponsors.

“PCHETA is an imperative. We are running into provider shortages. As we approach 2030 there are estimates that the population of people age 65 and older is going to grow exponentially, and at the same time the population of physicians that we have right now will be looking at their own retirement,” Emily Baehr, director of hospice services for St. Barnabas Hospice in Pennsylvania, told Hospice News earlier this month. “We are seeing an increased need for clinicians in hospice, palliative and geriatric medicine, and so PCHETA is really pushing to get education programs not just for the current providers, but also to ensure that there are enough providers that are trained appropriately to meet those needs down the line.”

The United States has 13.35 hospice and palliative care specialists for every 100,000 adults 65 and older, according to an April 2018 study. The research estimated that by 2040 the patient population will need 10,640 to 24,000 specialists; supply is expected to range between 8,100 and 19,000.

Hospice and palliative care providers also experience shortages in non-physician disciplines, including chaplains, nurses, and social workers. As far back as 2008, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service (CMS) began allowing hospice providers to use contracted nursing staff because not enough nurses were available to fill permanent positions.

In addition to establishing education centers, PCHETA would create grant programs to support education, workforce development and retention programs for palliative care and hospice nurses and would create grants for teaching hospitals and graduate medical education programs to train palliative care physicians. Programs receiving grants would be required to develop performance measures to ascertain trainee competency.

PCHETA would also direct the National Institutes of Health to use existing funds to expand palliative care research, as well as finance awareness programs to educate the public about hospice and palliative care.

“With its broad bipartisan support and an expansive list of supporting organizations, PCHETA is exactly the type of bipartisan bill that should be moved,” Edo Banach, President and CEO of National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), said in a statement. “We now call on Congress to pass PCHETA and take this significant first step to ensure access to holistic palliative and hospice care for all Americans.”

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