Palliative care program coming to TC

November 08, 2017

Palliative care program coming to TC

TRAVERSE CITY — Advocating for patients and conducting difficult conversations — that's the impetus behind a new certificate program being offered at the Northwestern Michigan College University Center next semester.

Grand Valley State University, starting in January, will offer an interprofessional certificate program in hospice and palliative care for post-bachelor degree students. The four-course, 12-credit program is a hybrid of in-seat and online classroom instruction.

"We're very excited about it," said Dr. Karen Roberts Burritt, the associate dean of graduate programs at Grand Valley State University's Kirkhof College of Nursing. "To offer something real specific to the community in Traverse City is real exciting."

GVSU has offered the hospice and palliative care program in Grand Rapids since 2015. Burritt said offering the program in Traverse City grew partially from demands from caregivers in the region, but also because the region "is ready for" and receptive to the idea of palliative and hospice care.

"There is a huge need for information in this area on palliative care and hospice techniques," said Mary Robinson, the College's regional nursing programs coordinator for northern Michigan and the eastern Upper Peninsula.

Robinson said the emphasis with palliative care, then transitional into hospice, is all about "quality versus quantity" when it comes to patients facing life-limiting and terminal illnesses.

"It helps practitioners advocate for what the patient needs and what they want," Robinson said.

The GVSU course is designed for a wide-range of medical practitioners including nurses, social workers, physicians, clergy members and other health professionals.

"It's more robust when you have a cross section of disciplines," said Burritt. "The outcomes for the patients are much better when it’s interdisciplinary."

"This certificate course is going to teach the different disciplines to communicate across their boundary lines," Robinson added.

Six people signed up for the first class in Traverse City, and Kirkhof College officials expect that number to grow as January approaches.

Burritt said program cohorts will be no more than 20 to "keep quality where we want it to be" and also to provide space and time for discussions of sensitive and delicate subjects. Burritt said there has been a lot of other interest, and partial applications completed, and that Grand Valley State would add additional cohorts if necessary.

Robinson said the first six people to enroll include three nurse practitioners, one nurse, one physician and one hospice bereavement coordinator.

"We're already getting a great mix," she said.

Robinson said she's received interest from a nurse practitioner from St. Ignace, and from a Michigan State Police trooper in the U.P. interested in grief support for first responders.

Grand Valley's 2018 semester begins on Jan. 8, a Monday. The hospice and palliative care program begins with class on Jan. 10. Classes at the University Center will be held on Wednesdays and meet about five times a semester with the remainder of the course work online.

"We've found that format to be very popular with working adults," Burritt said.

In addition to providing practitioners with "amazing tool kits," Robinson said the certificate upon completion of the four courses does not have an expiration date.

"We are the only university in the state of Michigan doing this," she said. "We are the only university in the state of Michigan that is offering this certificate. I think we're one of the only ones in the Midwest that is offering this."

People interested in applying for the certificate program can contact Linda Buck at or (800) 480-0406 for more information. Details also are posted online at

HPC course work

The 12 credit hours come from four graduate-level courses in nursing and social work, which include a trio of three-credit classes and one elective.

The three-credit classes are:

— NUR 581: Chronic and Terminal Illness: The Palliative and Hospice Model

— NUR 582: Complex Pain and Symptom Management

— SW 669: Death, Grief and Loss

The elective is a choice of a three-credit class from nursing, social work or public administration:

— NUR 607: Health Care Systems, Policy and Politics

— NUR 620: Clinical Pharmacology

— PA 634: Health Care Law and Ethics

— SW 616: Law, Ethics and Social Work

— SW 671: Social Work and Health Care

(Courtesy- Record Eagle)

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Page last modified November 8, 2017