Hospice facilities & organizations have faced significant challenges over the past few years, as seen throughout healthcare. Adopting new procedures and technology to address the issues of the pandemic, changing federal guidelines, and a host of other issues need to be managed. Chief among the concerns is the lack of qualified hospice professionals and knowledgeable healthcare providers.
The challenge of education, training, and the burden it puts on hospice resources is being addressed in a number of ways.
Hospice Education & Training
Staffing is an issue across industries and hospice care is no exception. We are seeing severe understaffing of hospice specialists throughout the country. Of concern is the lack of training and exposure during medical students’ education. From medical school to social work education, students are not exposed to hospice at significant enough levels to grow the workforce sufficiently.
On a national level, there is a drive for the Palliative Care and Hospice Education Training Act (PCHETA). This may provide a significant level or resources to develop palliative care and hospice-centric resources to increase the qualified professionals so desperately needed.
General Hospice education for Medical Professionals
As politicians start another push for expanded training and education resources, to aid in the staffing pressure we also need to address the lack of exposure to hospice during medical education. The lack of understanding has implications beyond the hospice workforce.
Providers are concerned that medical practitioners who are not exposed to hospice and its role in end-of-life care miss the signs to indicate that a patient should be referred to a hospice facility.
Hospices are seeing the results of this lack of exposure. Patients are spending more of their end-of-life without the assistance and benefits of hospice, with up to 10% dying within 2 days of gaining access. This gap in education and training for medical professionals means people are enduring more hardship than necessary in their final days.
There is a push to have hospice care introduced more widely within the medical training curriculum. With early exposure, medical professionals will hopefully see the need for hospice earlier in a patient’s care.
The staffing issue needs to be addressed from two perspectives. First, as mentioned, is improving education, exposure, and training for medical professionals. The second is to improve the efficiency of processes in hospice facilities to lessen the burden on the staff. If we can reduce the time for administrative activities, we allow hospice workers to focus more time on the patients.
One of the challenges organizations face is the bandwidth to simultaneously address inefficient processes while needing to engage in those same processes to get the job done. Working with a 3rd party that has specialized expertise (IT, administrative, process), can provide a more efficient way to develop solutions while minimizing any disruptions. It also lends a different perspective to your team that may identify areas of improvement that were not noticeable from the inside.
The staffing difficulties need to be addressed on a broad scale as well as at an organizational level. As we encourage better national and state policies, we can also implement change locally.