By Coby Tschanz, RN, MN, PhD(c); Deanna Hutchings, RN, MN

Concepts relevant to hospice palliative care (HPC) nursing are addressed in several courses within the College-University Transfer Program for undergraduate
students. As well, students have the option of focused study via a fourth-year elective. This course, first taught in 1992, was the first palliative care nursing course in BC and one of the first in Canada. It was developed and taught by the multidisciplinary team of Lynn Cummings (MScN), Debra Braithwaite (MD), and Wendy Wainwright (MSW) from Victoria Hospice, at the invitation of the School’s then Acting Director Dr. Mary Richmond. Current syllabi continue to be influenced by past iterations and the newly developed CASN competencies for HPC nursing. This course is delivered twice each year, once on-campus and once to post-basic BSN students via Moodle.

It provides a rich milieu for distinguishing and advancing the contributions of nurses in HPC and beyond. Course work supports students to develop confidence
in interpreting HPC principles in various settings. For example, a nurse wrote: “This course has sparked me into developing a team within my long term care home to create a system to identify when palliative care should begin for those with dementia…. Thank you for helping me…to help others.” Knowledge gained in the course also fosters greater competency and compassion in the full range of nursing practice. Another student reported: “This course has opened my eyes to how I provide pain management, not only to palliative cancer patients, but to all patients experiencing pain.”

It is no small accomplishment that this nurse is better able to serve her patients, no matter where she practices. These examples of feedback are two among many. As a result of the course it is not uncommon for students, whether practicing or beginning nurses, to pay closer attention to quality of end-of-life care with a clearer sense of direction of how to proceed- that is, with deeper levels of compassion, competence, and confidence in caring for those who are dying and for their families.

Coby Tschanz is Senior Instructor at the UVic School of Nursing.

From the 2013 Spring Communiqué — Palliative Care