Mary Ersek, PhD, RN, FAAN
Professor of Palliative Care

Contact Information
University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing
Room 329 Fagin Hall
418 Curie Blvd.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-4217
tel: (215) 746-3563

Mary Ersek is the Director of the Veterans Health Administration PROMISE (Performance Reporting and Outcomes Measurement to Improve the Standard of care at End-of-life) Center, which is located at the Philadelphia VAMC. The goals of this national program are to identify and reduce unwanted variation in the quality of end-of-life care throughout the VA and to define and disseminate processes of care (“Best Practices”) that contribute to improved outcomes for Veterans near the end of life and their families.

Prior to 2009, she was the Director of Research in the Center for Nursing Excellence and Research Scientist at the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle WA. She also held research faculty appointments in the University of Washington Schools of Nursing and Medicine. Dr. Ersek received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Georgetown University, and a Master of Nursing and PhD in Nursing Science from the University of Washington.

Dr. Ersek coordinates the palliative care minor in the School of Nursing and teaches NURS367/557 Principles of Palliative Care and NURS577, Advanced Practice Issues for Palliative Care Nurses. She also mentors an interdisciplinary group of pre- and post-doctoral fellows and students. She is the lead author of the End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC) - Geriatric course, which has been disseminated throughout the US, as well as in Japan and Korea.

Over the last 15 years, Dr. Ersek has developed and led a program of research focused on pain and palliative care in older adults, with an emphasis on residents of nursing homes. Her studies include two NIH-funded randomized controlled trials, one investigating the efficacy of a pain self management group for residents of retirement communities, and another examining the effectiveness of a pain management algorithm coupled with intensive support and consultation in enhancing the health status of nursing home residents. Two other projects evaluated the impact of comprehensive palliative care curricula on nursing home staffs’ and nursing assistants’ knowledge and skills. Another study, funded by the New York Department of Health, tested the effectiveness of web-based informatics reports and education in changing clinical practice patterns and enhancing resident outcomes in nursing homes. Dr. Ersek is a core investigator at the Center for Health Equity and Promotion, which is one of several VA-funded Centers of Innovation. As a CHERP investigator, Dr. Ersek is leading an interdisciplinary group of investigators to develop a valid and reliable measure of pain intensity for persons with advanced dementia. She also collaborates with VA investigators throughout the US to examine the associations among patient characteristics, clinical practices, and outcomes of palliative care.

• Currently Funded Grants

• Center for Health Equity Research
• Center for Integrative Science in Aging


2011 Dean’s Award for Exemplary Teaching, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing
2010 Fellow in Palliative Care Nursing (FPCN), Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association
2009 Recipient, Distinguished Researcher Award, Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association
2008 Kelting Visiting Scholar, University of Iowa College of Nursing
2007 Fellow, American Academy of Nursing
2000 John J. Bonica Trainee Fellowship, International Association for the Study of Pain
1992 Excellence in Cancer Nursing Research Award, Oncology Nursing Society/Schering
1989–1991 Individual National Research Service Award, National Center for Nursing Research
1986–1987 American Cancer Society Scholarship for Master's Degree students
1985 Recruitment Award, University of Washington Graduate School of Nursing
1985 USPHS Traineeship for Master of Nursing Students

• Honors/Awards Details »

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