Alec Stone
Alec Stone MA, MPA, ONS Public Affairs Director

For more than five years, the cancer advocacy community—along with the larger healthcare environment—has presented and promoted a comprehensive piece of legislation focusing on patient-centered care, palliative care training, and hospice education. Advocates are familiar with the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA)—an initiative that contains many of ONS’s policy priorities and one that ONS members have lobbied for on Capitol Hill.

Those involved with the act had high hopes that it would pass before the 2018 midterm election. After passing the House in 2018, the clock ran out on the Congressional session, controversy arose through a misunderstanding of the law’s intent, and some U.S. senators conflated palliative care with hastening of death and medical aid in dying. That put a temporary hold on the bill in 2018 and ensured its demise at the end of the 115th congressional session.

However, many congressional representatives rode a wave of healthcare reform through the midterm elections and into the 116th Congress. Starting in the new session, PCHETA was reintroduced in January 2019 and is again at the top of the cancer and nursing communities’ agendas. The bill—H.R. 647—has already been fast tracked to move through the House of Representatives quickly.

Some important elements of the bill include:

  • Palliative Care and Hospice Education Centers: Establishes centers to improve training for interprofessional healthcare workers in palliative care
  • Workforce Development: Creates fellowship programs to provide short-term intensive courses focused on palliative care
  • Career Incentive Awards: Provides grants or contracts to teach or practice in the field of palliative care for at least five years
  • Nurse Training: Creates special preferences in existing nurse education law for hospice and palliative nursing, in education, practice, and quality grants, workforce development, and nurse retention projects
  • Palliative Care Education and Awareness: Provides for a national campaign to inform patients, families and health professionals about the benefits of palliative care
  • Enhanced Research: Directs the National Institutes of Health to use existing authorities and funds to expand palliative care research

Learn more about PCHETA, the impact of oncology nursing advocates, and how to get involved in ONS policy work on the Oncology Nursing Podcast.