We’re in trouble. There just aren’t enough specialists in palliative care to palliate all the suffering out there. One estimate of provider need is over 5,000 full time employees, which could require up to 18,000 trained providers depending on the proportion of time providers devote to the practice of palliative medicine.
One important strategy to address this problem, as highlighted by the recent IOM report Dying in America, is to improve the skills of all providers in the practice of “primary” palliative care.
Historically, some physicians have turned towards palliative medicine and hospice later in their careers – perhaps out of a desire to broaden the meaning they find in their work. However, board eligibility in Hospice and Palliative Medicine now requires fellowship training. While this is a wonderful thing for establishing the legitimacy of the field, a potential externality is further threatening the workforce supply. Not only are there a limited number of Palliative Medicine fellowships, it is very difficult for many mid-career clinicians to obtain training without a major disruption of their lives, such as leaving their practice and/or moving. Currently there are 300-350 palliative medicine fellows in training each year; there are a limited number of opportunities for specialty training for nurse practitioners and no programs we are aware of for physician assistants.
Amos Bailey, MD, a well-known leader in the field of Palliative Medicine and a new colleague of mine at the University of Colorado has a pretty innovative idea. He has set up a task force to prepare an application to the Board of Regents to offer a new degree program: Master of Science in Palliative Care. This would be an inter-professional executive Masters that would be provided predominantly online (with three separate one-week on-campus intensives). This program will be designed for the clinicians (physicians and advance practice providers) who are already working and need or desire more training in Palliative Care.
As part of this effort, we need to gauge potential interest in such a Masters Program. Dr. Bailey has prepared a brief (2-3 minute) survey to explore potential demand among physicians and advanced practice providers who might be interested in such a program. [Click here for a link to the survey]
What do you think of this idea? Personally, I’m pretty sold on the idea. Currently, the need is so great that I have no worry that such a program would undermine my board certification in Hospice and Palliative Medicine although I can see that being a concern. We would love to hear thoughts. Also, any help you can provide in identifying potential participants in the program to respond to our survey would be greatly appreciated.
by: Dan Matlock, MD, MPH