Talk with your patient about their end-of-life plans.

Health care providers want to honor their patient’s choices, but knowing a patient’s preference is essential for this outcome and initiating conversations about end-of-life choices can be difficult. ECU Health is here to help support you.

For most people, getting to the place where they are ready to complete an advance directive is a process, and your role as a health care provider is key to facilitating this. Today’s patients want to be partners in health care decision making, but continue to rely on you to provide the reasoning and proof.

Learn more on our Conversation Scripts for Providers page.

How to Start a Conversation With Your Patient

A health care provider speaks with a patient.

Advance care planning isn’t just for the aged, frail or those with a serious illness or terminal diagnosis. Ideally, everyone 18 years of age and older has an Advance Directive that specifies their choices for care. But how do we get there? By working together.

Research shows that by starting conversations early about patient preferences for future care and end-of-life care, and incorporating these conversations into your daily routine as a health care provider, you can help normalize these conversations and experience and set new expectations across the health care continuum. Consider planting seeds of thought with your patients by initiating conversations about their end-of-life care preferences as a routine part of your practice and regularly revisiting this topic with your patients at subsequent visits or touch points.

There are many resources and supports available to you and your patients to assist in the process of completing an advance care plan. Check out the advance care planning toolkit and other resources on our website or call us for specific needs that no resource is listed for.

The following courses are sanctioned and promoted by ECU Health for its team members. All offer CEU or CME credit and are offered without charge for team members.

You can also check out the End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium project. ELNEC is a national education initiative to improve palliative care in the United States by providing consistent, advanced education on end-of-life care. This two-day course focuses on the core areas of end-of-life care and includes palliative care; pain and symptom management; ethical, cultural and spiritual considerations; communication; and preparation for and care at the time of death.

Respecting Choices® First Steps® and Advanced Steps® Advance Care Planning (ACP) Facilitator Certification is also available across eastern NC. This two day training focuses on the skills needed to facilitate foundational advance care planning discussions with any adult, as well as providing the skills needed to assist those with serious illness or frailty in making treatment decisions based on their goals of care. This evidence-based facilitator training is designed to increase comfort and competence in initiating, supporting, and sustaining advance care planning discussions.

VitalTalk Mastering Tough Conversations: Immersive training for providers to develop and hone skills in having serious illness goals of care communication with patients and families. Taught by ECU Health and ECU providers trained as VitalTalk faculty, this course and CME’s is available for ECU Health and ECU Providers including physicians, Physician Assistants, and Nurse Practitioners.

Advance Instruction for Mental Health Treatment Training, is a three and a half hour course that teaches facilitation skills for assisting those with a behavioral/mental health diagnosis to complete a Psychiatric Advance Directive. Available for all ECU Health team members through the Learn Center.

Advanced Training

  • Center to Advance Palliative Care: ECU Health Membership Access via ECU Health or ECU email to access online courses for frontline clinicians and providers. Most are free for team members including CNE/CEU/CME’s. Courses include:
    • Delivering Serious News
    • Discussing Prognosis
    • Clarifying Goals of care
    • Conducting a Family Meeting
    • Advance Care Planning Conversations