FAIRMONT, W.Va. (WBOY) — The West Virginia Rural Health Association partnered with the Hospice Council of West Virginia to host the first-ever care conference.

More than 40 hospice and palliative care nurses heard from national speakers and learned how to better their patients’ care.

“In West Virginia, there’s some stigma around hospice and palliative care and so as we learn how to best approach folks to get engaged with that type of care our system will be better and we’ll be able to age and die with dignity,” WV Rural Health Association Executive Director Rich Sutphin said.

WV Rural Health Association (WBOY Image)

The topics covered were compassion fatigue, burnout and resilience and how to improve as a state to get patients the quality care they need.

The keynote speaker was Rev. Dr. Carla Cheatham, Chair of NHPCO’s Spiritual Caregivers Community and Assistant Professor for the University of Maryland’s MS in Palliative Care program. Dr. Cheatham began her career in psychosocial services with an MA in Psychology, certification in trauma therapy, Ph.D. in Health & Kinesiology, and MDiv before working 10 years as an interfaith healthcare chaplain and bereavement coordinator. She publishes books and videos about resilience, communication, boundaries, grief, healthy leadership, service recovery, and emotionally competent professionals.

The goal of the event was for everyone to leave with a better understanding of patient care, having honed their advanced listening skills.

“We strive for the highest quality of care for all of our patients. We make sure that all patients are served no matter their ability to pay and we want to make sure that everyone knows that there is a hospice provider in their community,” Hospice Council of West Virginia Executive Director Jessica Hall said.

Hall said with West Virginia being such a rural state, it’s hard to get all of the information out about what kind of care is available, so the council acts as a centralized place for that by pulling together all the hospices in the state.

Keynote speaker Rev. Dr. Carla Cheatham, Chair of NHPCO’s Spiritual Caregivers Community and Assistant Professor for University of Maryland’s MS in Palliative Care. (WBOY Image)

“Joining together with the West Virginia Health Association we’re able to get that message out there that there is someone there for them, for their family through this very difficult time,” Hall said.

“We know that the last few months of life is often very expensive to care for someone, to extend life without quality, so what we want folks to understand is that hospice organizations in West Virginia their nurses, social workers that live in your community have your interest at heart and they’re going to do what’s right for you, the patient, and your family,” Sutphin said.

This was the first time the West Virginia Care Conference was held and organizers said they hope to continue it in the future.