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St. Luke’s Hospice Achieves Top Level Certification for Care of Military Veterans

To mark the occasion, St. Luke’s Hospice partners with BSU Nursing to host Boise showing of the film “Honor Flight”
April 10, 2014

By Ken Dey

St. Luke’s Public Relations

St. Luke’s Hospice recently achieved Level IV Partnership with the National Hospice and Palliative Care Association and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The achievement is part of the “We Honor Veteran’s Program,” a national initiative where hospices across the country are partnering with the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) and the VA. The goal of the program is to provide better care for veterans by recognizing that their end-of-life needs may be different than those of non-veterans.

There are an estimated 5,500 hospice programs across the country, and St. Luke’s Hospice is one of only 109 hospice programs in the nation to achieve this status. And St. Luke’s Hospice is also one of only two hospices in the Treasure Valley that has been awarded a contract to provide hospice care at the Idaho State Veterans Home.

To mark the achievement, and to increase the awareness of the needs of veterans, St. Luke’s Hospice is partnering with the Boise State School of Nursing to bring the documentary Honor Flight: The Movie to Boise for a free showing at 6:30 p.m., Monday, April 14, in the Simplot Ballroom of the Boise State Student Union Building.

The movie tells the story of four World War II veterans and a Midwest community coming together to give them the trip of a lifetime to Washington, DC to see the WWII memorial. The documentary has spawned similar efforts in other states, including Idaho, to send veterans on trips to Washington, D.C.

Check out the trailer

Kennette McWilliams, a social worker with St. Luke’s Hospice, said the experiences that veterans have often faced during their service require a different approach to care.

“We recognized that with veterans it really is a cultural awareness issue,” she said. “If you have information about the veteran’s service, you’re better prepared to understand the possible correlations to illness and psychosocial factors.”

For example, if a veteran had experienced combat, their needs can be even greater because of the potential of veterans reliving that combat during their final days. How veterans react can also be dependent on which war they served in.

McWilliams says learning more about the needs of veterans not only helps improve hospice care, but is a skill that all health care providers should adopt.

Left to right, Kennett McWilliams, with St. Luke's Hospice; Kim Martz, BSU nursing professor; Tiffany Ryan, BSU nursing student; John Dilgard, BSU nursing student; and Kendra Tietz, RN, St. Luke's hospice pose next to the poster announcing Monday's free showing of Honor Flight.

To achieve the Level IV status, St. Luke’s Hospice had to address all four levels of care for veterans.

Level one required implementation of a veteran-centric education program for staff and volunteers and identification of patients with a military history.  Level 2 required the building of organizational capacity to provide quality care for veterans.  Level 3 required the development or strengthening of partnerships with VA medical centers and other veterans' organizations.  Level 4 required a focus on increased access and improved quality of care for veterans in the community.

Kendra Tietz, an RN with St. Luke’s Hospice, says many veterans aren’t even aware that they qualify for hospice coverage through the VA. A military history checklist is now standard in the admission packets of hospice patients, which helps ensure the veteran is achieving all the benefits due and it also serves as way to better understand a veteran’s military service.

“Health care providers as a whole need a better awareness of the needs of veterans,” she said.

That awareness is even more important with the number of veterans now in the healthcare system and the new generation of veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who are already seeking or will be seeking medical care.

It’s estimated that there are 26 million veterans alive today and one in four adult men is a veteran. With more than 1,800 veterans dying each day, the demand for hospice care is likely to increase.

McWilliams says there are many ways health care providers can engage, honor and recognize veterans when they are being treated.  The four key areas health care providers should cover include:

  • Give veterans an opportunity to tell their stories.
  • Respect veterans’ service, their feelings, and any suggestions they might offer.
  • Thank veterans and their families for their services to our country.
  • Always be sincere, caring, compassionate and ready and able to listen to what a veteran or his/her family member has to share about the situation they are dealing with.
With more veterans each day entering the healthcare system and many of them facing the end of their life, it’s important that hospice care be a part of  the training for future caregivers.

Kim Martz, an assistant professor of nursing at BSU, said students typically don’t get much exposure to end-of-life care and being able to work with St. Luke’s to be exposed to that is an important opportunity for students.

“It improves their cultural competencies and makes them better equipped to care for veterans,” Martz said.

A group of BSU Nursing leadership students took the lead on bringing the showing of the documentary to Boise as a way to honor our many aging veterans and gain recognition from the community about the many sacrifices veterans have made.

Tiffany Ryan, a senior nursing leadership student, says the event will be more than just showing the movie. They will have a guest speaker, music by students and an official presentation of the colors by BSU ROTC students. In addition, they have invited veterans to the showing.

Ryan says many vets, especially WWII vets, are dying at a rapid rate.

“This is our way of honoring them and shaking their hands and thanking them for their service,” Ryan said. “We don’t want to miss that opportunity.”

John Dilgar, a senior nursing leadership student, said they hope younger people will be able to attend and watch the documentary to better understand the needs of veterans.

“There is a whole new generation of veterans in our population and we need to be aware of their needs,” Dilgar said.