Egan School Students Gain Real-World Experience in Palliative Care

Egan School Students Gain Real-World Experience in Palliative Care

A rare component of nursing curricula, Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies students gain hands-on experience in clinical rotation at the Fairfield County Hospice House in Stamford, Connecticut.

Feeling the call to pursue a career as a pediatric palliative care nurse, senior nursing student Gabrielle Persechino ’22 reached out to the Egan School's assistant dean for undergraduate studies, Katharine Saracino, MSN, RN, and to assistant professor of the practice Rose Iannino-Renz, DNP, MSN, to inquire about a palliative care clinical experience.

“I asked them if there was any way for me to have a one-on-one experience with a hospital chaplain for transition, as my faith and spirituality are so important to me. Given that clinical placements at pediatric facilities are slim and that my transition clinical hours have to be in a hospital setting with a registered nurse, Professor Saracino and Dr. Renz recommended Fairfield County Hospice House. I agreed enthusiastically, as I am always interested in new experiences,” she said.

Since its inception, the Kanarek Center for Palliative Care (KCPC) has educated hundreds of nursing students and practicing nurses on the importance of providing compassionate, holistic, and high-quality care for patients with life-threatening conditions. The mission of the Kanarek Center is to advance nursing leadership and foster interprofessional collaborations that enhance the lives of patients and families in palliative and end-of-life care, through education, administration, practice, research, and policy. 

“All too often, students graduate nursing programs without ever caring for a dying patient. One notable impact of the pandemic has been a broadened awareness in our nursing students of the need for more practical experience in post-acute care environments such as hospice,” explained Dr. O’Shea. “The Egan School is fortunate to expand its clinical experiences to meet the ever-changing landscape of nursing as we cultivate the next generation of knowledgeable palliative and hospice care nursing leaders."

To address this need, Donna Coletti, MD, the KCPC scholar in residence, mentors and supervises nursing students in a clinical rotation at the Fairfield County Hospice House in Stamford, Conn. This organization provides high-quality, compassionate end-of-life care for terminally ill patients. There, Egan students experience hospice care and learn from a palliative care physician in collaboration with the hospice care staff. 

Some of the students’ responsibilities include feeding patients, providing hygiene care, assessing their pain, and giving pain medications with the guidance of their preceptor. The students also engage in conversations with patients and their families.

Graduate student Edna Mullally became interested in end-of-life care following a simulation at the Egan School. When asked about her experience at Fairfield County Hospice House, she described her biggest takeaways as "the value of therapeutic communication with patients and families, and early intervention with palliative care."

Persechino, who recently finished her hospice rotation and accepted a position as a nurse resident at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, has been able to use a great deal of what she learned during that time. “I've incorporated physical touch into my nursing care, and I have seen the difference in the way the patients interact with me,” she said. “The act of touching someone produces the “feel-good” hormones in your brain, such as dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin, that increase trust, comfort, and love. Patients smile at me more often, feel safe with me, and ultimately feel comfortable just by being touched, which is the true goal and meaning of palliative care.”

To learn more about the Kanarek Center for Palliative Care, visit fairfield.edu/kanarek.

Tags:  Egan School

Last modified: 03-29-22 12:05 PM

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