The Future Leaders Awards program is brought to you in partnership with Homecare Homebase. The program is designed to recognize up-and-coming industry members who are shaping the next decade of home health, hospice care, senior housing, skilled nursing, and behavioral health. To see this year’s Future Leaders, visit https://futureleaders.agingmedia.com/.
Brittany Chambers, Director, Health Equity and Special Initiatives, Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC), has been named a 2023 Future Leader by Hospice News.
To become a Future Leader, an individual is nominated by their peers. The candidate must be a high-performing employee who is 40-years-old or younger, a passionate worker who knows how to put vision into action, and an advocate for seniors and the committed professionals who ensure their well-being.
Chambers sat down with Hospice News to talk about her career trajectory and the ways the industry is evolving.
What drew you to the palliative care industry?
Public and community health were part of my undergraduate studies, and I continued on that path through graduate school. I’ve always had this interest in how health care works in the sphere of community services, particularly at the administrative, policy and programmatic levels. I wanted to see how I could make an effort and impact among different populations and levels of community health care in another way outside of the clinical setting.
I came across palliative care just in doing research on different fields and began learning more about palliative care and hospice. While hospice wasn’t new to me, palliative care was. It took a while to get a grasp of these services and what good care looks like for patients. I was honestly confused about why it was a specialty when it sounded like the basis of care that everyone should have.
But having access to it really depends on where a patient receives health care, starting with hospital settings or community-based providers. The team-based approach really focuses on quality of life that really spoke to me and like my values. I was really excited to work at CAPC, because they’re trying to push for palliative care to become more mainstream as an important part of health care.
The equity component came in as I learned more and more about the blind spots and disparities in palliative care access. I wanted to understand how to try and ensure providers are not intentionally missing underserved communities and what they can do to have equal access. What would be the major impacts of that access on people’s lives?
Marrying these two passions of public health and equity has really been something I never dreamed of, but it’s incredible to be a part of something that’s really evolving in health care.
What’s your biggest lesson learned since starting to work in this industry?
It’s so important to think back about the journey about what we’ve experienced and consider how we look to the future. One of the biggest lessons learned is that palliative care specifically, because of the nature of its philosophy, can have a part to play in a lot of health equity conversations. If you see something evolving in the larger landscape or conversation, palliative care is likely to have some service involved that offers a solution to the central problem. It can be a catalyst for positive change.
Think about how palliative care improves quality for patients. It is in its own niche, but it’s applicable in broader health policies as well. How we support seriously ill patients and families today drives outcomes across the continuum tomorrow. It’s having a seat at the table of these health policy development conversations.
Equity is also a very important thing to consider. Social justice is important, and it seemed to start being a bigger part of public conversation in recent years, particularly with the killing of George Floyd in 2020. I think equity was talked about more in seeing how these injustices were impacting every aspect of life. It was a huge awakening for our country that launched a sort of “jump rope’ effect, where every organization wanted to jump in and focus on diversity initiatives.
Those initiatives are an opportunity to hold ourselves accountable for action. How do palliative organizations develop and sustain their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts? How can they have more coordination of activities across organizations and realize their impacts related to equity?
The biggest lesson to learn is: If you think something is important, then stick with it.
A time will come where others are focused when push the mold for an issue to become the topic of conversation. That’s what resonates most with me. It’s like that timing and having equitable palliative access become more of a routinized conversation versus when it was a little bit more on the fringes of societal concerns.
If you could change one thing with an eye toward the future of hospice and palliative care, what would it be?
I would want to see data that is much more clear on the palliative care side around certain populations or racial groups, specifically African American populations that do not utilize the services. We don’t always have super clear data in palliative care in the same way hospice does, as these services are defined too broadly to study narrowly.
My hope is that the data could reflect ways to be much more equitable in palliative access and utilization. Not everyone wants to use these services, but everyone should be able to at least have access to it. That’s the biggest thing.
Hopefully, once certain groups do have access and choose it more, that they have good experiences with both palliative and hospice care. They are robust services with good support for people when they are going through such a hard time navigating a serious illness. Having that care team support and provide resources really can improve that hard situation, no matter who you are or where you live. This care should be equitable and accessible.
What do you foresee as being different about palliative care looking ahead to 2024?
What I’m seeing coming across my desk more and more is just questions about how to measure equity and diversity metrics. What are the metrics and why are they important to measure? What are the actual strategies? How do we measure success and move towards it?
I think that is something we will start to see become more clear as the [U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)] request more insight from thought leaders in the space and evolve more metrics to measure equitable outcomes.
Patient satisfaction with serious illness care services is a key quality metric related to equity. I’m hoping palliative care access will start to evolve and become a lot more at the forefront of not just being great work, but also having strategies from these metrics behind them that drive change and sustainability.
The next steps are to look at recommendations from providers in the space and seeing the actual equity implementations and evaluations that can be developed.
In a word, how would you describe the future of palliative care?
Palliative care, and hospice as well, have been in our health care system for a long time. But the conversations happening around these services, particularly with quality metrics, continues to evolve this field as an industry. You never know where or how the direction of these conversations will go.
A core mission is just building palliative care programs that will continue to increase in number and help get our country further along in the health accessibility piece. Palliative care is evolving in both access and quantity throughout the country.
If you could give advice to yourself looking back to your first day in the industry, what would it be and why?
My advice back on that first day would just to continue to talk to other leaders, both emerging and more seasoned and experienced. Continue to make connections and learn from different folks in the industry. That learning is ever constant.
I realized that for me — depending on what space or room I’m in — that I’ve been able to recall the conversations and connections with people across different spheres. These talks have been like a convener to opening up about different issues and challenges, and ways to address them.
If, for example, you’re speaking about homelessness and reaching these populations, it’s talking with others who have developed strategies or done the research on issues. Those connections can continue to drive change and spark initiatives, whether it’s a program development or a training and education opportunity.
Being open to those talks with anyone and everyone is one way to increase exposure. That’s the best advice I can give my past self and any others entering the palliative care field.
To learn more about the Future Leaders program, visit https://futureleaders.agingmedia.com/.