Get the Conversation Started this National Healthcare Decisions Day

By Tacy Silverberg-Urian, RN, BSN, CHPN Home
VNA Health Group

Get the Conversation Started this National Healthcare Decisions Day


As we age into our elder years we may begin to experience some decline in our health. Disaster is something that often goes unplanned. Although getting the conversation started about end-of-life can be hard, it is essential to you or your loved one’s wishes after tragedy strikes.


As a hospice nurse liaison with Barnabas Health Hospice and Palliative Care and a member of NHPCO (National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization) Hospice Action Network, I meet annually with  legislators in Washington, D.C. to educate them on various public policy EOL (end of life) bills including -- advance care planning bills.


I am a compassionate, vocal, and action-oriented advocate in my community for completing one’s advance directives prior to a medical crisis requiring hospitalization.  It is disheartening when I meet with hospitalized patients and families at life’s end and find out they are without a medical advance directive.


Not communicating one’s end-of-life wishes may cause confusion and guilt for loved ones who are pressured to make these difficult decisions in the end.


Additionally, the default medical interventions that are provided may be ineffective medical procedures that go against the wishes of the patient (perhaps your loved one did not want to go on artificial ventilation of feedings.)). Writing down and communicating one’s EOL wishes is  a priority  that continues to gain momentum as a public health initiative.


This year, National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) will be recognized during the week of April 17th. .


National Healthcare Decisions Day exists to inspire, educate and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning. NHDD is an initiative to encourage patients to express their wishes regarding healthcare and for providers and facilities to respect those wishes, whatever they may be. The theme for 2017 is "It Always Seems Too Early, Until It’s Too Late."


Initiated by The Conversation Project, NHDD exists as a 50-state annual initiative to provide clear, concise, and consistent information on healthcare decision-making to both the public and providers/facilities through the widespread availability and dissemination of simple, free, and uniform tools (not just forms) to guide the process. NHDD entails 50 independent, but coordinated, state and local events (necessitated by the difference in state laws and dynamics) supported by a national media and public education campaign.


A key goal of NHDD is to demystify healthcare decision-making and make the topic of advance care planning inescapable. On NHDD, no one in the U.S. should be able to open a paper, watch TV, view the internet, see a physician or lawyer, or go to a healthcare facility without being confronted with the topic of advance care planning. Among other things, NHDD helps people understand that advance healthcare decision-making includes much more than living wills; it is a process that should focus first on conversation and choosing an agent.


In celebration of National Healthcare Decisions Day, some of VNA’s activities included: a FREE educational workshop in my NJ community of Montclair in collaboration with the town’s Lifelong Montclair Program on March 13th and 27th where the attendees completed their FIVE WISHES or medical advance directive; in addition, the week of April 18-19th, saw the  launching of our Conversation Project Initiative at Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville, NJ. The event is aimed to educate the public and employees about the importance of having “the Conversation” and completing their Advance Directive.  To continue this initiative, our hospice team will be offering FREE consultations to complete one’s FIVE WISHES document on a monthly basis.


Tacy Silverberg-Urian RN BSN CHPN is a hospice and palliative care nurse with the Barnabas Health Hospice and Palliative Care in Partnership with RWJBarnabas Health.

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