Improving end of life care for the homeless
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As the population of the United States continues to age, providing this ever-growing group of individuals with end of life care is becoming an increasingly important issue. Quality end of life care begins with understanding the distinct needs and desires of each individual, and the best way to ensure that their wishes are followed is through the completion of advance directives. Although many Americans understand the importance of completing advance directives, the most vulnerable members of our society, the homeless, are often not given the opportunity to document their end of life wishes. In addition to dealing with the demands of everyday life on the street, homeless individuals are often disconnected from the healthcare system, and therefore they frequently miss out on the opportunity to partake in advance care planning. As this population ages, their end of life care is becoming ever more important. Studies have shown that homeless individuals are willing and able to fill out advance directives when they are given the opportunity, but in today’s busy healthcare system medical providers often do not have the time to assist each of their patients with completing an advance directive. Fortunately, nursing and medical students have proven that they can successfully assist homeless individuals in filling out advance directives, although the success of physician assistant students in providing this intervention has yet to be studied. This thesis will propose a new educational intervention designed to teach physician assistant students about advance care planning as well as giving them the opportunity to assist homeless individuals in completing advance directives. The curriculum will provide an innovative way of fulfilling educational standards set forth by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, and it can be adapted for physician assistant programs throughout the nation. As a result, physician assistant students will graduate with the confidence and skills necessary to provide advance care planning to all of their patients.