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Visiting Nurse Association of Wisconsin and Marquette University establish unique hospice program

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

The Center for Hospice Care is first to offer a residence for children and adults

MILWAUKEE, The Visiting Nurse Association of Wisconsin today announced plans to establish The Center for Hospice Care, the first hospice in southeastern Wisconsin to serve both children and adults in a single setting.

As a part of the project, the Visiting Nurse Association and the Marquette University College of Nursing have formed a collaborative partnership to establish the Institute for End of Life Care Education. The center will serve as a state-of-the art education site for end-of-life care. It is the first time a hospice care center will include such an extensive educational component. Unique elements of the program will enable the center to be a national model for better ways to provide end-of-life care.

Aurora expects the center to serve as a prototype for similar projects in Green Bay and other communities that are served by the Visiting Nurse Association.

"This project is the result of two years of research and planning that helped us to understand the insufficient level of hospice care in southeastern Wisconsin," said Sue Ela, R.N., president of the VNA and senior clinical vice president of Aurora Health Care. "While many people will continue to stay at home for hospice care, the center offers another important option to the community and builds upon our expertise in end-of-life care."

The Visiting Nurse Association established a formal hospice program in 1981 and today is the state's largest provider of hospice home care for children and adults. In addition, the VNA operates the Milwaukee Hospice Residence in Wauwatosa.

The Institute for End of Life Care Education will provide a new clinical opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to apply classroom learning from various disciplines, such as nursing, medicine, social work and theology, to help plan and deliver care that meets the needs of dying patients and their families.

"The Institute for End of Life Care Education is a meaningful extension of Marquette's mission to promote dignity, respect for life, and care for the whole person throughout the life cycle," said Judith Fitzgerald Miller, Ph.D., interim dean of the College of Nursing at Marquette University.

The $7.5 million Center for Hospice Care will be an 18-bed hospice residence offering a home-like environment for the terminally ill. Aurora has committed $4 million toward the cost of the project, with the rest of the funding coming through philanthropic donations.

"Aurora's financial commitment reflects our continual effort to enhance care at the end of life," Ela said.

The center is expected to open in early 2004. A number of locations in Milwaukee County are being considered.

"Ultimately, we will select a site based on easy access for people throughout metropolitan Milwaukee," Ela said. "One important criterion for the site will be that it offer the serenity and atmosphere essential to the hospice experience."

A major consideration in the design of the 31,000-square-foot facility is ensuring that family members are part of the program of care. This includes larger rooms to enable family members to stay with their loved one, as well as family gathering rooms.

"We can offer end-of-life care with meaning and dignity when care at home is no longer possible," said Jake Frick, M.D., an oncologist helping in the facility's design and development. "Our focus is on providing a serene and restful surrounding that respects a patient's choices and wishes."

The Center for Hospice Care will serve patients of all ages, including:

  • Patients with complex symptoms or pain that cannot be managed at home.
  • Patients whose families need a respite from caregiving responsibilities.
  • Patients with a primary caregiver in the home who needs support.
  • Patients who live alone.
"The center will offer a level of care that people want during this stage of life," Ela said. "The hospice will provide for the comfort and respect of patients in a setting that is more cost-effective than an acute-care hospital.

"As we planned the design and décor of the center, we paid special attention to meeting the needs of children," Ela said. "For example, the pediatric rooms will recognize a child's need for play and will include an additional bed for a parent to stay with the child."

The hospice care center will be designed to be a place of comfort and peace. A caring, compassionate and skilled staff "professionals trained in pain and symptom management" will be on duty 24 hours a day.

"More attention needs to be given to preparing health care providers to meet complex physical, spiritual and psychosocial needs of persons at the end of life," Miller said. "We will be engaged in helping nurses and others learn about this important life transition. We are fortunate to be part of this educational partnership with the VNA."

Wendy and Bob Bosworth, community volunteers, are chairing the Visiting Nurse Association's philanthropy campaign to help support the project. "The VNA has a long tradition of partnerships to better meet community needs," Wendy Bosworth said. "We're pleased that a number of individuals and organizations have already committed their support to this project."

The Visiting Nurse Association of Wisconsin is the state's oldest home health agency and provides services in 20 counties in eastern Wisconsin. The VNA joined Aurora Health Care in 1988.

Aurora is a community-owned Wisconsin health care provider and a nationally recognized leader in efforts to improve the quality of health care. Aurora has care sites in more than 75 communities throughout eastern Wisconsin.

The Marquette University College of Nursing prepares nurses for lives of service, professional excellence and personal integrity. The college has offered baccalaureate and graduate nursing education for more than 60 years.

For more information about the Institute for End of Life Care Education call 414-288-3860.

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