In July 2017, MUSC College of Nursing alumna Rinne Sade ’75 made a philanthropic gift to help propel her alma mater’s educational offerings in palliative care.
Rinne had long had a passion for serving individuals diagnosed with serious illnesses and end-of-life situations, professionally and in later years, as a friend or volunteer. After graduating from the College of Nursing (CON), she worked in the surgical intensive care unit at University Hospital for two years. After this, she taught critical care courses at Saint Francis Hospital (just across the street, for those who remember). She later earned her master’s degree in general counseling from The Citadel. While working on her master’s degree, she was fortunate to be added to the VA Hospital’s chaplaincy team, which dealt primarily with terminally ill patients and families.
Rinne and her husband, Bob, a cardiac surgeon for congenital heart patients at MUSC, shared this passion. Early in the 1980s, they visited the San Francisco hospice in-house facility with hopes of learning how to establish such a facility in Charleston. At that time, there was no facility or home health hospice in the area, and medical insurance did not cover hospice care for the terminally ill. The first step would be to utilize home health nurses to provide hospice care in the patient’s home.
Rinne was fortunate to be hired by the very first hospice group, Hospice of Charleston. She joined two other dedicated staff members along with a committed board at Grace Episcopal Church downtown. Together, they formed the first home health hospice in 1981. Volunteers played a large role and Rinne served as the first director of volunteers and bereavement.
Since that time, palliative care has evolved into specialized medical care for people across their lifespans who are living with serious illnesses. Practitioners focus on relief from the symptoms and stress of illness, with the goal of improving quality of life for both the patient and family. Charleston has experienced the growth of many home health hospice agencies, and health care insurance now reimburses for this care. We also have (at least) one in-house facility serving the local area.
Since Rinne’s palliative care contribution in 2017, palliative care education at CON has blossomed. Under the direction of Carrie Cormack, DNP, APRN, CPNP, BC, associate professor and palliative care nurse practitioner, the college was able to purchase the End-Of-Life Nursing Education Consortium (ENLEC) curriculum and integrate it into the undergraduate program. As a result, the college has been able to better prepare its graduates to be competent, compassionate, and caring to individuals with serious illnesses and during end of life.
With the Sades’ funds, Cormack has also spearheaded the creation of a palliative care high fidelity simulation case that will enable students to experience and work through a holistic, hands-on palliative and hospice care patient situation. This will take place over two semesters and will allow students to follow their simulated patient and family over time, build rapport, experience the effects of disease on both patient and family, participate in goals-of-care discussions, and care for a patient at end of life.
Sade is thrilled about the new emphasis on palliative care education at her alma mater. “During a serious illness, the stress created for the patient and their family is immense, and the nurse is often the one at the bedside to reassure and offer explanations,” she said. “In my opinion, talking about the patient’s death with the patient is the toughest subject we encounter as nurses. A good palliative care program helps students view their own death and accept their own mortality. This, in turn, promotes comfort within, resulting in open and compassionate communication with their dying patients.”
The Next Phase
As one of only a handful of nursing schools nationally providing palliative care education, the MUSC College of Nursing is now setting an important precedent and distinguishing itself in this important area. The college’s alumni have been no small part of that.
Sade recently endowed a permanent fund through her estate, the Corinne Vincent Sade Fund for Palliative Care Education, to continue to support this work in perpetuity. The permanent fund will support scholarships to CON students specializing in palliative care, as well as providing ELNEC training for registered nurses and APRNs who are practicing and no longer in school.
Alumna Mary Swain ’80 also recently designated her endowed chair to focus on palliative care. The Mary Watcher Swain Endowed Chair for Palliative Care Health is now being recruited and, once in place, will direct and expand the college’s palliative care education, research, and practice initiatives. Rinne is excited to see a fellow alumna supporting palliative care. “The fact that we now have an endowed chair in palliative care health is thrilling and means that this work can go to the next level,” Rinne said.
Cormack is working to integrate the ELNEC curriculum into the college’s graduate programs. Once completed, all advanced practice nurses and nurse scientists will have expertise in palliative care.
Finally, the college hopes to develop and formalize a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) track and certificate program in palliative care as it continues to set its sights high and distinguishes itself as leader in interprofessional nursing education.
“We are so delighted to be developing this area of the College of Nursing,” said Dean Linda Weglicki. “All too often health care providers are concerned about adequately providing relief from pain, physical stress, and mental stress in conditions which are chronic in nature. Palliative care seeks to bridge those care gaps, develop a needs-based care plan, and provide appropriate care. This is not only important for the patient but also for their families, friends, and loved ones.”
For more information about giving to support this developing area of the College of Nursing, please contact Anahita Modaresi, director of development, at 843-792-8421 or firstname.lastname@example.org.