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Summer Institute in Primary Palliative Care

This week-long, half-day summer program will provide training for social workers, marriage and family therapists, licensed mental health workers, other mental health providers, chaplains, and people working with older adults in PELC primary assessment, skills and interventions needed to support patients and families as they negotiate the trajectory of serious illness.

Everyone faces the journey of illness as a patient, friend, family member, caregiver or decision maker at some point in their life. The culture at large is beginning to see small cultural changes that bring these issues to the center and increasingly, the need for mental health providers proficient in palliative and end-of-life care (PELC) is becoming clear. Mental health providers are in an extraordinary position to support patients and families as they negotiate the trajectory of serious illness, providing support, counseling, education, anticipatory guidance and assistance with care planning and decision making. Importantly, this means understanding how to meet patients and families at any point in the continuum of illness, from diagnosis through bereavement.

As such, there is a great need for training opportunities for social workers, marriage and family therapists, licensed mental health workers, chaplains and anyone working with older adults, to learn PELC primary assessment, skills and interventions needed to enhance their existing practice. In this spirit, NYU’s Zelda Foster Program for Palliative and End-of-Life Care is offering a week-long summer institute for mental health providers. This course is a primer in palliative care, providing an overview of the field, digging deep in comprehensive assessment, interventions and skills, and exploring ethical and legal implications in the field. We will discuss self-care and clinician well-being in the work in hopes of creating sustainable practices. Clinicians will leave the week with an increased confidence in their ability to meet the needs of patients and/or clients across settings.

Learning objectives

  • Utilize bio-psycho-social-spiritual assessment to effectively engage and support patients and families living with serious illness
  • Increase understanding of issues patients and families face from diagnosis through bereavement
  • Identify the role of all providers in symptom management
  • Integrate fundamental palliative care principles into existing practice
  • Recognize common ethical challenges and frameworks
  • Explore issues of burnout and self-care

What we offer

  • In-person and interactive training focus
  • Expert academic and clinical faculty
  • Content tailored to working clinicians
  • Community of working professionals interested in the field
  • Continuing education credits

2017 Summer Institute Program Schedule

Monday, July 17


  • Breakfast
  • Introduction and Discussion of Program Learning Goals

Introduction to Palliative and End-of-Life Care

  • Definition of terms
  • Role of mental health professionals in various palliative and end-of-life (PELC) settings
  • Role of mental health professionals in non-PELC settings, including private practice
  • Historical Perspectives on Illness, Death and Dying
  • Overview of key theoretical views and perspectives that guide the work
  • Overview of key psychosocial concepts including culture, religion and spirituality

Tuesday, July 18 and Wednesday, July 19


  • Breakfast


Practice Issues – What is the Work?

  • Assessment, including of mental health issues, prior experiences with trauma and other co-morbidities
  • Principles of Pain Management
  • Engagement, including difficult conversations and communication skills
  • Bio Psychosocial and Spiritual models of care
  • Meaning attribution – illness, pain and suffering
  • The trajectory of illness and key psychosocial issues at each phase
  • Fostering communication within families, couples, and with health care professionals
  • Transference, Counter-transference issues
  • Self-care and Compassion Fatigue

Thursday, July 20


  • Breakfast


Ethical, Legal Issues and Public Policy Issues

  • Key concepts in biomedical ethics
  • Advanced directives and decision-making, health care proxy
  • Capacity vs. Competency
  • Euthanasia and Physician assisted suicide
  • Futile care
  • Cultural and religious issues related to ethical considerations
  • Interaction of clinical, ethical, legal and organizational issues

Friday, July 21


  • Breakfast


Adult Bereavement

  • Key concepts and theoretical models
  • Dispel the assumptions of what constitutes "normal grieving"
  • Consider the recent research on mourning
  • Discuss case examples and interventions


Wrap-up and Evaluation

Zelda Foster Studies Logo

The Summer Institute in Primary Palliative Care is part of NYU Silver's Zelda Foster Studies Program in Palliative and End-of-Life Care (PELC), which encompasses a range of initiatives designed to develop and mentor PELC social work leaders at all stages of their careers.

For more information, contact:

Dr. Susan Gerbino
Director, Zelda Foster Studies Program in Palliative and End-of-Life Care

2017 Summer Institute