Doesn’t it seem like there’s a national observance day for just about everything? Did you know there’s a Spicy Guacamole Day? What about International Fanny Pack Day? Or Bunsen Burner Day? Or Wear Brown Shoes Day? How about Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day? Today happens to be Pins and Needles Day. While there are an abundance of absurd observance days that give people a good laugh and a reason to post funny memes on Facebook, “real” observances provide real opportunity.

November is the time we honor and celebrate National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. We tip our hat to the countless healthcare professionals who give so selflessly to provide expert, compassionate hospice care, palliative care and emotional and spiritual support to patients and their families.

This observance is an important time for leaders of hospice and palliative care programs to recognize the work of their staffs internally. It also gives hospice and palliative care providers a chance to educate their communities about the value of hospice and palliative care and the reasons for engaging with you sooner in a serious illness.

As we know, people typically fear the word, “hospice.” The “H-word” certainly isn’t a word that comes up in conversation every day, but perhaps it should. All too often, people put off conversations about their wishes regarding end-of-life care until a devastating illness puts a time limit on their life.

Palliative care is misunderstood by so many people, including healthcare professionals. Too often we hear palliative care being used as a synonym for hospice care, inferring the care is for the final weeks or days of life.

Consider some of the ways you could educate your community:

  • Write a letter to the editor on one of a variety of topics, such as the benefits of hospice to patients and families for months, not just days; how palliative care complements curative treatment and can be used at any stage of a serious illness or share a testimonial from a patient or family.
  • Send an email to a health reporter at a local newspaper or the news director of a local television station to “pitch” the idea of a story, such as a day-in-the-life story. A reporter could shadow one of your caregivers for the day. (Note: make sure patients or their families sign a consent form to give permission for the news outlet to print pictures or air footage captured from the day.)

Media interviews offer great opportunities to tell the story of your hospice program, position your program as the leader and educate the community so that more people can experience your expert care and support during a serious illness or at the end of life.