Ichabods In Depth

Published Jan. 31, 2012

Nursing students' Advance Directives initiative makes strides at student club showcase

The Campus-wide Advance Directives Initiative booth at Connect and SelectThe Connect and Select student organization fair on Wednesday featured nearly 50 organizations and a little bit of everything: Greek organizations, academic clubs and an information station educating all visitors about the importance of advanced directives.

Piper Hower, who is working toward her masters of science in nursing to become a nurse practitioner, is working with two classmates to promote the first of its kind program.

Hower, who is a nurse in the Stormont-Vail HealthCare intensive care unit for individuals with cancer, said she was moved to focus her graduate research project on increasing public knowledge of advanced directives because of her professional experience.

"I see a lot of people who have to make a lot of decisions at the end of life."

Advanced directives, including a living will and a durable power of attorney, are the legal way for any individual to make their wishes known regarding end of life care and treatment.

The legal documents articulate whether the individual wants CPR, life support, a feeding tube and other care in the event of an accident or illness. Without an advanced directive, the decision making responsibility falls to the next of kin, typically a spouse or parent.

Completing the documents, Hower said, spares family members who may "feel they're making the wrong decision" if an accident or sudden illness keeps someone from articulating his or her own wishes.

Extensive research related to advanced directives education that Hower and her partners began last year indicated that their effort may be the first on any college campus. Their goal is to eventually create a train the trainer style program so more campuses can share the information.

"These topics are not easy to talk about," Hower said.  More than 65 people responded to a survey about the education program and many left with the brochure and advanced directive documents to complete later.

Hower said she was pleasantly surprised by the response to the Campus-wide Advanced Directive Initiative.

"Our goal," she said, "is to create awareness and make an impact at Washburn."

To receive a copy of the advanced directive forms or learn more, contact the students.