2016 Advocate: Betty Ferrell, RN, PhD

Health HeroesBetty Ferrell discovered the virtues of palliative care when her mother was diagnosed with lung cancer nearly 2 decades ago. It offered her mother a level of comfort beyond what traditional medical care could provide. "Suddenly we realized what happens to patients and families when we can get their symptoms under control, when we provide social and spiritual support," she says. 

Ferrell's experience led her to become a missionary in the fields of palliative care and pain management. In 2000, she founded the End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC) project to teach nurses how to deliver effective palliative care. 

ELNEC now trains nurses in 95 countries, most recently in South Korea and Nepal. The project has also launched a program to support pediatric palliative care in Japan and China. "It is exciting to see this expand to support the care of seriously ill and dying children around the world," Ferrell says. 

In the U.S., Ferrell and the National Cancer Institute have teamed up on a new ELNEC project to train oncology nurses in palliative care. ELNEC has also launched an online educational program for undergraduate nursing programs. "This program is vital so that we can prepare nurses to enter practice with the knowledge to care for seriously ill patients," she says.

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