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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

CAPC 2016: Afterthoughts

By Amy Velasquez

There are not enough words to express my gratitude for having been invited to present a poster at the CAPC (Center to Advance Palliative Care) 2016 conference on Orlando. There were so many inspiring moments at the conference I am not sure where to start. Diane Meier sums it up with two words that impacted me the most, bankruptcy and “the norm.” She said one leading cause of bankruptcy is a chronic illness. All the years of hard work, saving money, and planning for the future can be lost to bankruptcy caused by a relentless chronic illness taking a family to lead a much different path than they had planned. Watching an elderly couple that has been married for 59 years, lose their house is a tragedy.

The term “norm” is individually defined. What is normal for one family may not be normal for another. What Diane is talking about is creating a world where palliative care is the norm for everyone involved. At the conference, we did not need to explain ourselves, everyone there “gets it.”  We were all one big family at the conference, trying to figure out how to spread the gospel of palliative care into a world with multiple different norms. Educating our future clinicians is the key to removing the stigma that palliative care is only for the dying. Listening is not an innate characteristic - we must be taught.  When we learn this, empathy follows. It is bedside nurses and the social workers of the world that have this mastered. To empathize with the patient and family promotes better patient outcomes and this causes palliative care to become the norm.

What else did we learn? We learned that we need to start a revolution, a war on symptoms a war on chronic illness, a war that will take care of the patient and not deplete their checkbook and the world’s checkbook as well. But how do we do this? I believe all of us are put on this world for a reason. To be able to listen to Patrick Conway, the longest acting Principal Deputy Administrator and the CMS Chief Medical Officer, was undoubtedly one reason I was brought to this conference. If you think the people at the very top of our political health care system do not have heart and soul, I am here to tell you otherwise. Patrick displayed the utmost desire to make our healthcare system attainable, realistic, strong and thoughtful. He talked about his years as a practicing pediatric physician and a specific story that changed his life and the life of a mother left behind without her child. This story not only displayed integrity on his part but it gave me hope in our healthcare system. I now have hope that the men and women at the top making decisions really do care, they really want our health care system to succeed.

Amy Velasquez RN BSN Palliative Care Nurse Navigator for the University of Kansas Hospital Annette and Richard Bloch Cancer Center. Amy loves nursing and her hidden talents are triathlons and painting landscapes.

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