News From the End-of-Life: Hospices, VA join to enhance end-of-life care

Launching a program to expand end-of-life care options for United States veterans, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) in Alexandria, VA, the Department of Veterans of Affairs (VA) in Washington, DC, and the Center for Advanced Illness Coordinated Care in Albany, NY, are seeking to increase veterans’ access to hospice and palliative services while providing educational opportunities for the clinicians who provide end-of-life care to veterans.

"Because VA is the largest integrated health care system in the country, we are positioned to be a national leader in end-of-life care," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi. "But we can’t provide all the services our aging veterans need. This initiative is exciting not only because it is aimed at improving care for veterans, but also because it will affect how end-of-life care is provided for all Americans."

The VA Hospice and Palliative Care (VAHPC) Initiative will expand and strengthen the relationships between hospice and palliative care programs across the country and VA health programs and facilities. The VAHPC Initiative is a two-year program designed to accelerate access to compassionate and coordinated hospice and palliative care services for United States veterans by addressing two critical concerns. These include the imperatives to: 1) substantively increase veterans’ access to the continuum of hospice and palliative services, and 2) contribute significantly to palliative care education and training of VA staff and trainees.

The VAHPC Initiative aims to:

  • Improve access to hospice and palliative care services across all levels and sites of care.
  • Expand and strengthen relationships between VA and non-VA health care organizations to enhance the delivery of hospice and palliative care services.
  • Advance opportunities for excellent palliative care education of VA employees and trainees through the enhancement of staff development activities, academic programs, and multimedia products.
  • Establish an enduring network of administrators, clinicians, and educators interested in advancing exemplary hospice and palliative care services and education.

"Like the VA, NHPCO and the nation’s hospices want veterans to have more choices about where and how they spend the final phase of their lives," said Chris Cody, NHPCO vice president of education and innovation. "Access and education are the keys. By increasing veterans’ access to quality hospice and palliative care services across all settings and expanding the knowledge and skills of the clinicians providing care, the nation’s veterans will benefit from an enhanced range of end-of-life care options. This means the medical, emotional, social, and spiritual care provided by hospice and palliative care programs will be available to veterans whether they are at home, at VA, or in a community hospice setting."