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

After years of confusion, discussion, debate, and dedicated advocacy work, lawmakers are finally understanding what palliative care is—symptom management, not hospice—and how it’s employed in care. The benefits of early palliative interventions for many diseases, including cancer, can improve quality of life for patients as they navigate their diagnoses. To increase awareness and availability of palliative care in practice, Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV), John Barrasso, MD (R-WY), Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) launched the bipartisan Senate Comprehensive Care Caucus on July 31, 2019.

“As someone who stepped back from my career to take care of my parents and in-laws as they got older and started having serious health problems, I understand just how important it is for working families to have access to the medically advantageous and cost-saving benefits of palliative care,” Senator Rosen said. “About one in eight people are living with a serious illness, and many of those patients lack access to comprehensive treatment that includes palliative care. We know that millions of Americans could benefit from access to palliative care, and by launching today’s bipartisan caucus, we will be able to give this very real issue the attention that it deserves.”

According to the caucus’s official release, “The purpose of the Comprehensive Care Caucus is to raise the public’s awareness and promote the availability and benefits of palliative care, while also finding bipartisan solutions to expand access to palliative care services, improve coordinated care, and address issues impacting caregivers. The caucus will work to enhance access to palliative care services and improve the quality of life of millions of Americans managing serious illnesses.”

As care coordinators, medical liaisons, and lifelines for their patients, oncology nurses stand front and center in the palliative care conversation. From education to interventions, nurses help their patients understand the impact of palliative care on their cancer journey. Palliative care legislation is central to ONS’s work on a national level, and the Society supports the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act in Congress.  

ONS attended the caucus’s launch and is committed to the palliative care conversation. As legislation moves forward, ONS brings oncology nursing’s voice and expertise to senators as they advance symptom management education and palliative efforts for patients.