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Penn Nursing > Media > Veterans and PTSD > Palliative Care
Mary Ersek

​Palliative Care

Mary Ersek, PhD, RN, FAAN

Associate Professor of Nursing

More than 54,000 American Veterans, many from World War II and Korea, die each month, and the number of Vietnam-era Veterans over 65 years of age will continue to grow through 2034. Dr. Mary Ersek, Associate Professor, is improving end-of-life care for Veterans through her role as the Director of the Veterans Health Administration’s PROMISE (Performance Reporting and Outcomes Measurement to Improve the Standard of care at End-of-Life) Center. This national Center is housed at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center as is an integral part of the VHA’s Hospice and Palliative Care Program. Its mission is 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. The PROMISE Center accomplishes these objectives by conducting medical record reviews and bereaved family surveys for Veterans receiving end of life care at any VA facility. Currently, they have data on over 35,000 Veterans.

Dr . Ersek also is also a core investigator of the Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center. Her research focuses on pain and palliative care for persons with dementia and for nursing home residents.

“The need for hospice and palliative care for our nation's Veterans is growing,” says Dr. Ersek. “The VHA is a national model for integrating, evaluating and improving care for seriously ill patients and their families. I am honored to serve Veterans through our work at the PROMISE Center.”

The ELNEC curriculum includes specialized train-the-trainer courses in palliative care for veterans with life-threatening illnesses. “The need for hospice and palliative care in the VA system is growing,” says Dr. Ersek. “The expertise gained at ELNEC courses can improve the quality of end-of-life care for thousands of veterans in VA centers across the U.S.”

Dr. Ersek also is lead author of the curriculum for the End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC), a national education initiative of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing to improve palliative care. The project provides nurse educators with training in palliative care so they can teach this essential information to nursing students and practicing nurses.

Biography »


  • Outcomes of end-of life care
  • Evaluation of quality of end-of-life care for Veterans
  • Pain and palliative care in older adults, with an emphasis on nursing home residents
  • Lead author of the End-of-Life Education Consortium (ELNEC) Geriatric curriculum
  • End-of-life care initiatives

Related Publications

Development of a composite pain measure for persons with advanced dementia: exploratory analyses in self-reporting nursing home residents
(March 2011)