Connecticut Coalition to Improve End-of-Life Care Fall 2020 Newsletter

President's Letter

Cynthia O'Sullivan, PhD, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC

Dear Members and Friends of the Connecticut Coalition to Improve End-of-Life Care,

I hope you are all well and enjoying our brilliant fall foliage and crisp November weather. As we head into the winter, each and every one of you is on my mind, aware that your dedication to high-quality palliative and end-of-life care has even more significance in the wake of the COVID pandemic, anticipated to intensify over the winter months. Your compassionate and steadfast support of patients and families is truly a blessing to our community and a model for all. I am always amazed and humbled by your willingness to comfort and care those touched by life-limiting illness and suffering, with each act of kindness helping to lighten the burden of illness. Thank you for all you do.

This season’s newsletter is dedicated to our nurses. The American Nurses Association, in response to a declaration by the World Health Organization, has designated 2020 as “The Year of the Nurse.” According to the ANA, “…globally, the nursing profession marks a milestone in 2020, as the World Health Organization declares it the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife in honor of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale” (ANA, 2020). These organizations never anticipated the challenges that nurses (and other healthcare workers) would face during the pandemic. However, these unprecedented experiences have helped us focus our attention on nurses’ contributions, not only during times of crisis, but in their daily work to help patients and communities meet their healthcare needs.

The pandemic also provides an opportunity for us to support nurses’ health and well-being and acknowledge their efforts in providing end-of-life and palliative care. This newsletter presents a glimpse of some of the extraordinary ways nurses have reacted to the COVID crisis. It also sheds light on the impact that this type of work has had on the very people we rely on during such a crisis. I wish to thank several of CTEOL’s nursing colleagues, Alison Kris, Gina Petersen, and Eileen O’Shea (in addition to Suzanne Marmo, a licensed clinical social worker colleague), for their support of nursing staff working in long-term care facilities during the pandemic, presented on the following pages. Allison, is also highlighted in our Member Spotlight. Jess Sarkisian, an acute care nurse in one of CT’s area hospitals describes her experiences in working during the height of the pandemic. Their contributions are powerful and poignant reminders of the tireless work of those who support quality end-of-life and palliative care.

I hope you enjoy reading their stories.

Most sincerely,

Cynthia O’Sullivan, PhD, APRN, FNP-BC

President, CT Coalition to Improve End-of-Life Care

Member Spotlight

Dr. Alison Kris RN, PhD

Alison Kris RN, PhD is an Associate Professor and Elizabeth DeCamp McInerney Professor of Health Sciences in the School of Nursing. She completed her BSN at the University of Pennsylvania, earned a PhD from the University of California, San Francisco and was the recipient of a John A. Hartford Foundation Post-Doctoral fellowship. Her program of research centers on issues related to the quality of care and staffing levels in nursing homes, as well as issues related to the quality of hospice care. Currently, Dr. Kris has most recently worked interdisciplinary grant examining interventions to improve the care of nursing home residents with dementia. Alison’s role as Vice President of the Connecticut Coalition for End of Life Care (CTEOL) has focused on expanding compassionate care for those impacted by life-threatening illnesses, particularly in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

CTEOL Supports COVID-19 Relief Efforts.

Early in the COVID-19 crisis, the impact the disease would have on nursing. In Connecticut, nursing homes have been devastated by the coronavirus, accounting for the vast majority of all COVID-related deaths. This freight train of mortality struck these facilities mercilessly, resulting in widespread death, suffering, psychological trauma for nursing home staff, residents, and their families. It became apparent that key measures to mitigate these impacts included massively expanded testing, improved access to PPE, a focus on comprehensive palliative care for residents at the end of life, and increased staffing support.

CTEOL’s mission is to expand compassionate care for those impacted by life-threatening illnesses. Working with a team of experts from across the state as well as from national advocacy organizations we developed guidelines for the State of Connecticut to stem the spread of COVID in CT nursing homes. We worked tirelessly to advocate for the delivery of PPE and testing supplies to CT nursing homes. Our Vice President, Alison Kris, participated in press conferences, collaborated with advocacy organizations and wrote op-eds. These guidelines were disseminated on national forums through the Gerontological Society of America Connect website, and used as the foundation for guidelines being developed in other states.

Our experts in palliative care communication, including Eileen O’Shea, observed that staff struggled to communicate with family members and end of life conversations - challenging under normal circumstances - were made more difficult by the need to conduct these conversations remotely. In order to address this problem, we pulled together the best resources from palliative care experts to ensure that the nurses working in CT nursing homes had access to resources to facilitate end-of-life conversations with residents. Together with our CTEOL volunteers, we developed educational literature, and organized an outreach program to distribute these materials directly into the hands of more than 1,000 nurses working in Connecticut nursing homes.

Moving forward, CTEOL will continue to work to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on residents, caregivers and their families through outreach and advocacy efforts. To get involved in these efforts, please contact Alison Kris, akris@fairfield.edu.

Mr. Carmen Totora, owner of the Carolton, and his sister Kathy Totora accepting the CTEOL & Kanarek Center for Palliative Care Nursing Education (KCPC) gift.
The Assistant Director of Nursing Services at Lord Chamberlain Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Stratford, CT accepting gift bags from CTEOL.
The drop off at Wilton Meadows was a success and much appreciated. Sarina said the morale has been low and this will help to pick it up!
Jessica Sarkisian, BSN, RN

Please read this powerful essay written by Jessica Sarkisian, BSN, RN

Election 2020

We would like to remind our membership to please remember to vote - make your voice heard! Together, our community can elect representatives to support and advocate for better end-of-life care policy and practices in Connecticut. Further, national policies and funding sources in relation to end-of-life care impact all Americans, including the citizens of CT. Your voice as an advocate for quality end-of-life and palliative care is essential!

Election Day is November 3rd. As a reminder, in the state of Connecticut, mail-in ballots must be postmarked or dropped off at their polling location by November 3rd to be counted. Please check your polling location at IWILLVOTE.com

Upcoming Meeting Dates

Executive Board:

  • October 7, 2020
  • December 2, 2020
  • February 3, 2021
  • April 7, 2021
  • June 2, 2021

Full Board:

  • November 4, 2020
  • January 2021 (date to be determined)
  • March 3, 2021
  • May 5, 2021


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