Linfield College Online Education: Improving Access to Palliative Care in RN to BSN Curriculum

By Melissa Robinson PhD, RN

green_rural_hospital__signNurses serve in key roles in the community related to the coordination and delivery of palliative care services in the community. Nurses have also encountered challenges associated with accessing palliative care services and support for patients, particularly in rural communities. By preparing nurses in RN to BSN programs with knowledge of palliative care approaches that include pain and symptom management, holistic nursing care, cultural awareness, spiritual support, and more, nurses can feel more prepared to intervene with advocacy and support.

The palliative care nursing class at Linfield College is providing nursing students with an opportunity to choose an elective course that will enhance their specialty knowledge while also delivering practice-oriented experiences that are immediately applicable to their work in nursing. Their learning is enhanced through collaboration with peers on challenging issues such as communication with patients and families at the end of life and moral and ethical decision making. Students can explore why these issues are challenging and develop strategies that will help them navigate some of the most distressing aspects of working with people who are experiencing life-limiting illness.

Student learning is also impacted by the diversity of the online classroom. Students in the course are generationally diverse and have had varied experiences in nursing, from pre-licensure nursing students, to new RN graduates, to nurses with many years of practice experience. The course is making a difference for RN to BSN students who are Registered Nurses when they attend the online BSN completion program. Many of the nurses live and work in rural communities where formal palliative care programs are currently less prevalent and less accessible to the patient population that they care for.

  • “Thank you for a very though provoking class. It has helped define me as a person and nurse.”
  • “This course has really helped me in so many ways; for my patients and also personally, finding strength in myself to provide better end of life care.”
  • “I was a huge advocate for a patient within the last week and it made a huge impact on the patient’s desires and outcomes. I feel I have the proper language skills to address this difficult subject.”
  • “This class is an absolute necessity to be successful as a nurse.”
  • “Now I am not afraid to communicate with people about death and dying, or about their choices, even if their choices are different than mine.”

The elective courses in the Linfield College nursing program are designed to contribute to the nurse’s liberal education while contributing to his/her ability to influence health outcomes in a diverse and ever-changing health care environment. Students are supported to achieve a deeper understanding of the social, economic, and political factors that influence health and how the nurse can use his/her influence to improve those particular conditions.
Join the Linfield online learning community of nurses advancing their education – start with a meaningful nursing elective course with content designed to expand your practice in Palliative Care Nursing.  Palliative Care Nursing (3 credit upper division nursing elective) is offered during the upcoming Summer and Fall semesters. Registration opened on May 9 for both Summer and Fall terms.

Meet the Faculty: Dr. Melissa Robinson is certified in Hospice and Palliative Care Nursing and Online Teaching and has nearly 20 years of experience in palliative and end-of-life nursing care. Her approach to facilitating the palliative care course is to design engaging, student-centered activities that inspire deep thinking and reflection on life and practice experiences. She values diverse perspectives, lifelong learning, and opportunities that inspire personal and professional growth.