Harvard's Angelo Volandes, MD Delivers Annual Lecture on Importance of End-of-Life Care
An audience of more than 400 faculty, staff, students, and Fairfield community members gathered at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts on Tuesday, Nov. 7 to welcome renowned physician, patients’ rights advocate, writer, co-founder and president of Advance Care Planning Decisions, Angelo Volandes, MD for the Annual Egan Lecture. Dr. Volandes' lecture was based on his recent book, The Conversation: A Revolutionary Plan for End-of-Life Care, in which he analyzes ways physicians can improve patients’ quality of life through palliative care. Palliative care services are dedicated to improving the lives of patients with severe, chronic, and life threatening illnesses, and their families. Dr. Volandes' book recounts stories from the experiences of seven patients with advanced illness, while exploring the course of events and treatments that occur surrounding a meaningful conversation between doctor and patient, or the absence of one. He re-envisions the patient-doctor relationship to include open dialogue about treatment options and interventions, and ensuring that patients are at the center of their medical care.
"Dr. Volandes goal is to inform and empower patients to begin advanced care planning earlier in life, before the need exists," stated Eileen O'Shea, DNP, APRN, PCNS-BC, CHPPN, director of the Kanarek Center for Palliative Care Nursing Education. "Having a conversation with family members and talking with primary care providers long before an individual experiences serious illness is the ideal time to begin conversations about end-of-life goals and wishes. In this way, according to Volandes, patients will be more informed about their options so when needed, patients will have the 'right care, at the right time, and on their own terms.'”
In order to understand all healthcare options, Volandes discussed the importance of having open and honest conversation between healthcare professionals and patients. At times, health care providers lose sight of the patient as a whole person — in the context of their family, culture, faith, and within their community. Additionally, patients with advanced illnesses may not have spent time talking about their goals and wishes for end-of-life care, with either their families or their primary healthcare provider. The lack of planning can result in medical treatments that may not benefit the patient, provide comfort, or extend life.
“I was personally amazed and moved by the lecture," Egan School student and Student Nursing Association President Olivia Foye ‘18 said of the lecture. "Dr. Volandes relayed his message eloquently while engaging the audience with his humor. He presented to an audience filled with eager undergraduate and graduate nursing students about this hugely important part of patient care. Dr. Volandes emphasized the importance of nurses and how priceless the time we spend with our patients is.”
Dr. Volandes practices medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and is on faculty at Harvard Medical School. Through his practice and as the co-founder and president of Advance Care Planning Decisions, he hopes to implement systems and technologies to improve the quality of care given to patients.
Fairfield’s Kanarek Center for Palliative Care Nursing Education is one of the newer curriculum additions to the nursing degree, and will make a significant impact in educating all nursing students to provide compassionate, holistic, and high quality care for all patients faced with life threatening conditions, and for their families. Nurses play a vital role in advocating and helping patients to complete care plans with the patients’ wishes in mind.
Foye contextualized Dr. Volandes’ mission with that of Fairfield’s, sharing they are one in the same. “To fulfill the patient’s wishes is every caretaker’s number one goal…It is of even greater importance to us here at Fairfield University as we have the new palliative care center in the new Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies. This is becoming an even bigger topic within our rigorous curriculum.”