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U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Champions Reform to Improve Palliative and Hospice Care

Bipartisan bill boosts the healthcare workforce to help Americans with life-threatening illnesses

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin introduced a bipartisan reform to grow, improve and sustain the palliative care and hospice workforce to keep pace with patient need and help improve the well-being of Americans with life-threatening illnesses and their families.

“I’m proud to lead the introduction of the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act to help grow and sustain our healthcare workforce to safeguard and improve the quality of care for the growing number of patients with serious or life threatening illnesses,” said Senator Baldwin. “This issue is especially personal to me, as I was raised by my maternal grandparents and later served as my grandmother’s primary caretaker as she grew older. I know firsthand the importance of ensuring that there are enough trained health care professionals to provide quality care across the country and to fulfill the needs and wishes of patients and their families.”

The Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA) would strengthen training for new and existing physicians, those who teach palliative care, and other providers who are part of the palliative care team to give patients and their families a voice in their care and treatment goals. It also boosts palliative care research and provides academic and career awards to incentivize practice and study of palliative and hospice care.

Senator Baldwin’s legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). Advocates from across the country and in Wisconsin have expressed support for the bipartisan bill.

“This legislation puts in place the building blocks of a national effort to improve the fragmented care patients with serious illness often receive by addressing their pain and other symptoms,” said American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) President Chris Hansen. “With increased access to palliative care, patients will benefit from improved quality of life from diagnosis, through treatment and survivorship.”

“We are proud to support the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act on behalf of the five million Americans currently living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias,” said Alzheimer’s Association Chief Public Policy Officer Robert Egge. “For persons in the advanced stages of this terminal disease, palliative and hospice care can improve both the quality of care and quality of life. In fact, hospitalization and invasive treatment is not recommended given the life expectancy of the individual, the significant burdens of aggressive treatment, and the difficulty of pain management for those who cannot communicate. Unfortunately, today the availability and quality of this care is limited. PCHETA will help to ensure more Americans have access to this high-quality care.”

“We applaud Senator Tammy Baldwin for introducing the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act,” said Palliative Care Network of Wisconsin Chair Dr. Tim Jessick. “As palliative care clinicians, and especially as a statewide palliative network, we are quite proud of this bill and the enormous potential benefits to our patients and their families. The American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine has been pushing for this bill for many years so it is gratifying to see this move forward.”  

Wisconsin groups supporting this bill also include the Alzheimer’s Association Wisconsin Chapters, Alzheimer's & Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Aging Advocacy Network, Milwaukee County Commission on Aging Advocacy Committee and the Palliative Care Network of Wisconsin.

Palliative and hospice care focus on relieving and preventing patients’ suffering and improving their quality of life. This team-based approach focuses on the patients’ needs, explains treatment options and gives patients and their families a voice in realizing their treatment goals. Palliative care has been widely embraced in Wisconsin as a critical component of high quality health care.

Over the last ten years, the number of hospital-based palliative care programs has quickly increased, but the number of providers available to fulfill the needs of these patients has not kept pace. Furthermore, many patients and care providers are not aware of the benefits and options for palliative and hospice care. To address this issue, the PCHETA will support the following:

Workforce Development: Establishes fellowship programs within new Palliative Care and Hospice Education Centers to provide short-term intensive courses focused on palliative care. By supporting the team approach to palliative care, the fellowships will provide supplemental training for faculty members in medical schools and other health professions schools, including pharmacy, nursing, social work, chaplaincy and other allied health disciplines in an accredited health professions school or program. Providers who do not have formal training in palliative care will be able to upgrade their knowledge and skills for the care of individuals with serious or life-threatening illness as well as enhance their interdisciplinary teaching skills.

Palliative Care and Hospice Education Centers: Establishes Palliative Care and Hospice Education Centers to improve the training of interdisciplinary health professionals in palliative care; develop and disseminate curricula relating to palliative care; support the training and retraining of faculty; support continuing education; provide students with clinical training in appropriate sites of care; and provide traineeships for advanced practice nurses.

Physician Training: Establishes grants or contracts to schools of medicine, teaching hospitals and graduate medical education programs to train physicians who plan to teach palliative medicine. Programs will be required to develop specific performance-based measures to evaluate the competency of trainees.

Nurse Training: Creates incentives for hospice and palliative nursing, in education, practice and quality grants, workforce development, and nurse retention projects.

Enhanced Research: Directs the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to use existing authorities and funds to expand palliative care research to advance clinical practice and improve care delivery for patients with serious or life-threatening illness.

Palliative Care Education and Awareness: Establishes a national campaign to inform patients, families and health professionals about the benefits of palliative care and the services that are available to support patients with serious or life-threatening illness. The bill also supports the promotion of information, resources and materials about palliative care services to health professionals and the public.

Academic Career Awards: Establishes a program to promote the career development of physicians who are board certified or board eligible in hospice and palliative medicine and have a junior, non-tenured faculty appointment at an accredited school of medicine.

Career Incentive Awards: Provides grants or contracts for eligible health professionals, such as advanced practice nurses, social workers, physician assistants, pharmacists, or students of psychology, who agree to teach or practice in the field of palliative care for at least 5 years.