Grant Application

Valerie Hess, RN, BSN and Kate Sciandra, RN, MSN, CNL of UPMC Shadyside


Proposed Innovation

Comprehensive oncology care includes both curative treatments and excellent palliative and end-of-life (EOL) care. Having highly trained nurses at the bedside improves patients’ quality of life as they face life-threatening illnesses. Yet, only about three percent of nursing schools report offering EOL-care courses. As a result, nurses often report feeling unprepared for EOL conversations with patients and family members.

The goal of this project was to improve the knowledge and proficiency of oncology nurses in palliative and EOL care. It also hoped to overcome barriers to continuing education through an innovative educational model.


Improvements in Action

With funding from the Beckwith Institute, the project provided oncology nurses at UPMC Shadyside with training in palliative and end-of-life care, including offering comfort and support to patients and family members. Designed as a mentorship program, it included eight months of online educational modules, mentoring through email exchanges, and group blog discussions of case studies.



Nurses who participated in the mentorship program showed a significant increase in palliative care knowledge as measured by the national ELNEC (End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium) exam. In addition, surveys taken before and after the project indicated that the mentorship program enhanced the nurses’ satisfaction with their palliative care knowledge and comfort in communicating with patients and families.

Results of the project were accepted for poster presentation and were presented at the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) Congress in 2014.