Linda Muskat-Rim

Columbia University School of Nursing

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(212) 305-3282 

Columbia University School of Nursing Launches Comprehensive Palliative Care Program for Students at All Levels 

Newswise — NEW YORK (April 24, 2018) — Columbia University School of Nursing is launching a school-wide palliative care education program that integrates the basic principles of palliative care into the curriculum for nursing students at all levels. The program reflects the recent development of competencies and recommendations from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). At a time when healthcare professionals are bracing for an unprecedented number of Americans who will be living with one or more chronic, life-limiting illnesses, the AACN is encouraging palliative care education for nursing students in pre-licensure programs.

“We are reaching a moment of crisis in the United States as more and more people, especially older Americans, are living with serious illnesses and experiencing impairments in their quality of life, from pain issues to loss of function and depression,” said Marlene E. McHugh, DNP, assistant professor of nursing at Columbia Nursing.   “Providing every health care professional with the basic tenets of palliative care is crucial to meeting the needs of these patients.”

Palliative care focuses not on the disease, but on the person. It emphasizes meeting the needs of patients and families and easing suffering. It includes, but is not limited to, end-of-life care and addresses the physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual needs of people with a serious illness. Providing palliative care requires knowledge on a wide range of topics, from understanding the financial impact of an illness on patients and their families to helping them adjust to cope with grief and loss. 

Mary Ellen Tresgallo, DNP, assistant professor of nursing at Columbia Nursing, said, “As palliative care providers, we talk to patients about what they value, what their goals are, and what their understanding is of their medical illness so that they can make decisions about next steps.”

Specialized Programs and Basic Principles

Columbia Nursing already offers specialized programs in palliative and end-of-life care for advanced students, but this is the first time the basic principles of palliative care will be integrated into the curriculum for all students. This includes master’s direct entry (MDE) students, who are just entering the field of nursing as well as advanced practice students earning a nurse practitioner (NP) degree or doctoral degree in nursing (DNP).

The program includes a series of six End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC) modules developed in partnership with the AACN and distributed by Relias Learning. The program is supported by a gift from the Dr. Scholl Foundation.

“We are grateful and excited to be able to add these rigorous modules, particularly for those students near the beginning of their nursing journey,” said, Penelope Buschman, MS, assistant professor of clinical nursing at Columbia Nursing. We hope to establish the palliative care philosophy as part of the foundation that guides them as they move into their professional practice, regardless of their specialty or the setting in which they practice.”

The new program provides entry into the palliative and end-of-life care subspecialties that are available for advanced students. From there, students can apply for a specialized doctoral/post-doctoral fellowship, which is offered with support from the Louis and Rachel Rudin Foundation.

“With this early introduction, we hope to whet nurses’ clinical appetites,” said Buschman. “First, we want to see them incorporate this information and skill into their practice no matter where they may be. Second, we encourage them to consider continuing the journey along the novice-to-expert continuum of palliative care by pursuing a subspecialty and a fellowship.”


Columbia University School of Nursing

Columbia University School of Nursing is part of the Columbia University Irving Medical Center, which also includes the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, and the College of Dental Medicine. With close to 100 full-time faculty and 800 students, the School of Nursing is dedicated to educating the next generation of nurse leaders in education, research, and clinical care. The School has pioneered advanced practice nursing curricula and continues to define the role of nursing and nursing research through its PhD program which prepares nurse scientists, and its Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), the first clinical practice doctorate in the nation. Among the clinical practice areas shaped by the School’s research are the reduction of infectious disease and the use of health care informatics to improve health and health care. For more information, please visit: