In my last blog post, I wrote about a presidential initiative to help post-doctoral students more easily acquire their pre-licensure hours. This week’s blog will address another major focus of my presidential year: palliative care, i.e. the care received (or not received) by people as they die.
A little background on this, on Lobby Day, last May, I found myself riding back to NYC on Amtrak next to Shibani Ray-Mazumder, an early career psychologist. She told me about her travails, working on a hospital palliative care unit where she felt the contributions of psychologists were not sufficiently valued. Having myself worked for nearly two decades in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and in-home care, I am well aware of the contribution psychologists make to people in the process of dying. We are specially prepared to understand the issues of loss, rage, depression, anxiety, and fear experienced in this population to help patients come to terms with their deaths. Shibani informed me that Palliative Care Teams are populated based on recommendations made by the National Consensus Project, a triennial think tank. For whatever reason, psychologists are not and have not been at this particular table. We are not considered essential to these teams, despite the special skills we bring to this task.
I immediately realized that NYSPA was positioned to initiate a focus on this topic and during 2016 Shibani and I formed a team, including also Ruth Mutzner (2017 President of the Division of Adult Development and Aging) and Sharon Brennan (2017 President of the Division of Psychoanalysis) to explore the issue and look at what can be done. Other interested NYSPA members are welcome to join.
Shibani has already developed and implemented a survey to gather data about psychologists’ experiences on managed care teams and the rest of the Task Force is making contacts with other interested parties nationally. The results of this work will be reported during the 2017 Annual NYSPA Convention. We hope to find a way to bring psychologists and their important skills to the bedsides of these patients.
Herb Gingold, PhD