We oftentimes initiate discussions about advance directives and then assist with completing them at end-of-life during our work in hospice and palliative care; however, an advance directive dialogue is something that need not wait having during the urgency of end-of-life care. As clinicians, we should be initiating these conversations daily with everyone, regardless of age and whether or not there may be a terminal illness diagnosis. Not only should we be having these discussions with our clients and their families, but also with our own families and friends.

So how can we become advocates for promoting advance directives? As a hospice professional, first assess your knowledge and comfort level with having these discussions with clients and families; and, equally important, have you completed your own Advance Directives? Then, one way to advocate is to participate in the upcoming National Health Decision Day (NHDD) on April 16th 2015. If you have not yet planned a NHDD activity, I encourage you to go to their website: http://www.nhdd.org/. Choose to Join the NHDD Team, Get Your Advance Directive, or Organize Your Community. A NHDD event can also be a rewarding experience for HPNA Chapter Leaders to plan and implement to educate their communities.

Having personally lost two parents and one parent-in-law to unexpected, sudden deaths over the past decade, I know, firsthand, the importance of having advance directives in place, regardless of age or health status. I invite you to read my recent article, Promoting Advance Directives and Ethical Wills with the HIV-aging Cohort by First Assessing Clinician Knowledge and Comfort Level, published in the March-April 2015 issue of the Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care. This link has free viewing until March 29, 2015: http://authors.elsevier.com/a/1QVL-_N-jB6PwK.

After reviewing the article, let’s have a dialog here about advance directives and ethical wills. I look forward to hearing about your ideas and plans to join the advance directive advocacy movement on April 16th’s National Health Decision Day!