College of Health, Education and Human Development

Compassionate health care focus of GHS-HEHD conference

James Davis Jr., medical director of Greenville Health System's Memory Health Program and Ambulatory Geriatric Services, speaks at the “Transforming Health Care with Compassionate Care of our Aging Community” conference.
“Compassionate health care is not just the right thing to do. It is the smart thing to do.”

According to Clemson public health sciences professor Cheryl Dye, that was the consensus view of those who attended a recent conference on compassionate health care delivery to older adults, sponsored by Clemson’s College of Health, Education and Human Development and Greenville Health System.

Dye helped organize the conference, “Transforming Health Care with Compassionate Care of our Aging Community,” which was held October 25 at Greenville Memorial Hospital. The event focused on the compassionate care of aging patients and those with dementia, and brought in experts from across the nation.

Among the speakers was Susan Bauer-Wu, who holds the Tussi and John Kluge Professorship in Contemplative End-of-Life Care at the University of Virginia School of Nursing. She is author of the 2011 book Leaves Falling Gently: Living Fully With Serious & Life-Limiting Illness Through Mindfulness, Compassion & Connectedness.

During the day-long conference, physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, social workers, chaplains and other healthcare providers joined together to learn about the art and science of compassionate care as well as models of practice and why it matters to clinicians, hospitals and the community.

Among the goals of the conference were to discuss the national initiative to create healthcare systems that are more compassionate, explain evidence based-research showing compassionate care as necessary and cost-effective, and identify opportunities for collaboration on compassionate care practices.

The event also included a Virtual Dementia Tour, an internationally known immersion simulation of dementia that demonstrates the physical and mental challenges facing those with dementia. A scientifically proven method of building a greater understanding of dementia through patented sensory tools and instruction, the tour was offered by GHS’ Center for Success in Aging’s Memory Health Program.

Given its cost benefits and positive health outcomes, the study of compassionate care needs to be incorporated into the education of healthcare providers, Dye said. “This is important to teach both current and future providers,” she added.

Other conference partners were Furman University, the Upstate Area Health Education Center, and Stewarts of America, a Simpsonville, S.C.-based manufacturer.

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