Crossroads Ramps Up Community Education with New VP

Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care is expanding community and clinical education about hospice and palliative care throughout its seven-state service region, establishing a new vice president post to spur the efforts. Nurse practitioner and new Vice President of Palliative Education Maite Uribe came to the United States from Australia to lead the program.

Community-based palliative care is expanding exponentially nationwide with hospice providers at the forefront, but efforts to build care and payment models are hitting a wall due to the lack of understanding that the public and many clinicians have about the nature of those services.

Uribe will spearhead Crossroads’ efforts to break down those barriers.

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“Some of the top priorities are the development of our 11 sites and supporting the clinical staff and nonclinical staff to increase their acumen and elevate the understanding of treating the patient as an individual,” Uribe told Hospice News. “And it’s about meeting patients where they’re at and giving them the information they need to be part of their own care plan, and being able to educate the patient and their family to support them through this last journey of their life.”

A 2019 Journal of Palliative Medicine study found that as many as 71% of people in the United States have little to no understanding of what palliative care is, including many clinicians in a position to refer patients to palliative care or hospice.

Close to 60% of patients who would benefit from palliative care do not receive those services, despite the availability of community-based palliative care as well as hospital-based palliative care, according to a recent report from the New England Journal of Medicine Catalyst Insights Council.

Crossroads current education programs have reached tens of thousands of patients, families and clinicians, according to Chief Medical Officer Timothy Irhig, M.D. These programs include national speaking engagements at professional conferences and community events, a host of webinars as well as didactic lectures for staff on clinical acumen, disease trajectories, symptom management and end-of-life and goals of care conversations.

“One of the big focal points of our organization is the realization that historically in medicine there has not been a mental construct that allows us to wrap our heads around what’s happening at the end of life. As medical professionals were trained to recognize disease and ability to do something to that disease and disability. If we see an increase in disease or disability, we do more to it,” Ihrig said. “[Clinicians] are trained with the belief that we can beat Mother Nature, that death is optional. And ultimately, that precludes us from offering unique individualized care choices based on physiologic realities and what’s what’s sacred to the individuals. So we’ve created a new mental model that really translates our unique capacity to understand the end of life and the potential to influence health care collaboratively. It is a cornerstone of everything we’re doing.”

Before coming on as a vice president at Crossroads, Uribe was most recently a palliative care nurse practitioner for SA Health in Australia, the government health service for citizens of South Australia, where she provided serious illness and end-of-life care.

During her tenure at SA Health, Uribe grew the health network’s palliative care capabilities with hospital-wide educational workshops and helped develop the network’s Last Days of Life Pathway, a systematic framework for clinicians to improve the end-of-life care experience for patients and their loved ones.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, for the time being Crossroads’ educational offerings will be primarily virtual.

“In short, it’s about ensuring that we are able to help support our clinicians, our community partners and ultimately the patients themselves,” Uribe said. “That’s in a nutshell how we’re able to elevate that conversation.”

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