Palliative and End of Life Care Training Workshop Held at NYU Shanghai

NYU-ECNU Institute for Social Development at NYU Shanghai (the Institute), co-sponsored by the Shanghai Social Worker Association (SSW) hosted a two-day intensive training workshop on Palliative and End of Life Care on June 28th – 29th, 2015. Dr. Susan Gerbino, the Clinical Professor of NYU Silver School of Social Work, together with Dr. Esther Chachkes, former Director of Social Work and Therapeutic Recreation at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, were invited to provide the training and shared their perspectives and approaches in delivering palliative and end of life care services in the United States. This training workshop attracted over fifty participants, including medical doctors and nurses, hospital and medical social workers, and social work practitioners from local social service agencies.

Serving as the Director of Zelda Foster Studies Program in Palliative and End of Life Care (PELC), Dr. Susan Gerbino possesses rich experiences in training MSW students to become advanced PELC professionals and working with people with life-limiting illnesses and the bereaved. Dedicated the whole career in delivering palliative care, Dr. Esther Chachkes led the task force to implement a Palliative Care Consultation Program at the hospital and was the recipient of a United States federal grant to train psychosocial volunteers to assist during disaster events.

During the two-day training, Drs. Gerbino and Chachkes first introduced the overview of palliative and end of life care in the United States, including definition, essential elements, the necessity of employing interdisciplinary team for such care and roles and functions of social workers in PELC, along with various modes of delivery of care. They also shared the current models of practice in the United States of working with patients and families at end-of-life, with a focus on the importance of listening to patients and valuing their knowledge and perspectives. When presenting various intervention models, such as Stage Theories, Living-Dying Process Model, Ira Byock Model, and the Dignity Project, participants were particularly interested in the intervention model used in the Dignity Project and had a role play with Dr. Gerbino to have hands-on practice, from which participants were able to see firsthand how to use dignity therapy questions and inventory for clients. Last but not least, Dr. Gerbino talked about how social workers intervene in adult bereavement to help them with mourning and continuing bonds with families, friends, and the society. 

Followed by the presentation, the Institute and the SSW also hosted a visit to a local agency in the afternoon of June 29th, Yingbo Community Health Service Center, where Nurse-in-Chief and two social workers from Hand-in-Hand Life Care Development Center shared their experiences of delivering palliative care from their perspectives acquired over the past 10 years of serving patients and family members. Despite long way to go to achieve stable and strong delivery system and infrastructure, with extensive resource and human power investment over the past 10 years, Shanghai now has become the most advanced city in China to deliver palliative and end-of-life care. 

Throughout these two-day intensive training workshop, participants had an in-depth discussion about the similarities and differences between Chinese and American intervention models. Participated by practitioners from different disciplines and professions, this workshop provided a platform for local practitioners to know more about the palliative and end of life care in the United States, and helped promote exchanges between Chinese and American social workers.