Mary Ersek, PhD, RN, FPCN
As an ICU and oncology nurse early in her career, Mary Ersek saw the need for better palliative and end-of-life care firsthand. When Dr. Ersek began conducting research, she realized that people living in nursing homes who have dementia were especially in need of palliative care.
“I am committed to enhancing the quality of care for persons with serious illness, especially older adults who are cared for in nursing homes, those with dementia, and veterans.”
- PhD , University of Washington, 1991
- MN, University of Washington, 1987
- BS, Georgetown University, 1980
Dr. Ersek develops and disseminates best practices to improve palliative and end-of-life care for people living in nursing homes and, more recently, for veterans. With NIH funding, she developed a palliative care curriculum for nurses and nursing assistants in nursing homes that was the foundation for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s End-of-Life Nursing Education (ELNEC) Consortium – Geriatric curriculum. ELNEC – Geriatric has been disseminated across the United States, and in Europe, Japan, and Korea.
Currently, Dr. Ersek is co-principal investigator of a five-year VA-funded program entitled, Preferences Elicited and Respected for Seriously Ill Veterans through Enhanced Decision-Making (PERSIVED). Its overall goal is to prevent unwanted, burdensome treatments by eliciting preferences for care from Veterans who are served by the Veterans Health Administration’s Home-Based Primary Care teams and the Community Nursing Home Program. She also serves as co-investigator on several NIH- and VA-funded studies with interdisciplinary colleagues at Penn and around the United States.
Dr. Ersek is senior scientist at the Veteran Experience Center, a national VA quality improvement program, which administers surveys to bereaved family members who are asked to rate the care received by veterans in the last month of life. The team disseminates survey results to guide quality improvement efforts in VA medical centers across the country. Through secondary analyses, the team also informs clinical care and performance measurement in VA and non-VA settings, and presents these analyses at national meetings and publishes them in peer-reviewed journal articles.
Selected Career Highlights
- Inductee, Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame, Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing (2019)
- Recipient, Nessa Coyle Leadership Lectureship, Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association (2018)
- Dean’s Award for Exemplary Teaching, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (2011)
- Fellow in Palliative Care Nursing (FPCN), Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association (2010)
- Distinguished Researcher Award, Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association (2009)
- Committee Member, Quality of Care in Nursing Homes. Convened by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (2020-2022)
- Member, VA Health Services Research and Development Scientific Merit Review Board, Career Development Awards (2019-present )
- Co-Chair, Technical Expert Clinical User Patient Panel (TECUPP); Development of patient-reported quality measures for community-based palliative care. Funded by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS): Measure Development for the Quality Payment Program (QPP) (2019-2021)
- Senior Fellow, Leonard Davis Institute, University of Pennsylvania
- Associate Member, Population Research Aging Center (PARC), University of Pennsylvania
Carpenter JG, †Lam K, †Ritter A, Ersek M. (2020). A systematic review of nursing home palliative care interventions: Characteristics and outcomes. Journal of theAmerican Medical Directors Association, 21(5), 583-596. PMID: 31924556. DOI: 10.1016/j.jamda.2019.11.015
Ersek M, Miller SC, Wagner TH, Thorpe JM, Smith D, Levy CR, Gidwani RA, Faricy-Anderson K, Lorenz KA, Kinosian B, Mor V. (2017). Associations between aggressive care and bereaved families’ evaluation of end-of-life care for veterans with non-small cell lung cancer who died in Veterans Affairs facilities. Cancer, 123(16), 3186-3194. PMID: 28419414. DOI: 10.1002/cncr.30700
Boyden JY, Feudtner C. Deatrick JA, Widger K, LaRagionne G, Lord B, Ersek M. (2021). Developing a family-reported measure of experiences with home-based pediatric palliative and hospice care: a multi-method, multi-stakeholder approach. BMC Palliative Care, Jan 14;20(1):17. DOI: 10.1186/s12904-020-00703-0
Thorpe CT, Sileanu FE, Mor MK, Zhao X, Aspinall SL, Ersek M Springer SP, Niznik JD, Vu M, Schleiden LJ, Gellad WF, Hunnicutt J, Thorpe JM, Hanlon JT. (2020). Discontinuation of statins in veterans admitted to nursing homes near the end of life. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 68(11), 2609-2619. PMID: 32786004. DOI: 10.1111/jgs.16727
Ersek M, Smith D, Griffin H, Carpenter JG, Feder SL, Shreve ST, Nelson FX, Kinder D, Thorpe JM, Kutney-Lee A. (2021). End-of-life care in the time of COVID-19: Communication matters more than ever. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, S0885-3924(20)30975-1. Advance online publication. PMID: 33412269. PMCID: PMC7784540. DOI: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2020.12.024
Levy C, Ersek M, Scott W, Carpenter JG, Kononowech J, Phibbs C, Lowery J, Cohen J, Foglia M. (2020). Life-Sustaining Treatment Decisions Initiative: Early implementation results of a national Veterans Affairs program to honor veterans’ care preferences. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 35(6), 1803-1812. PMID: 32096084. PMCID: PMC7280392 (available on 2021-06-01) DOI: 10.1007/s11606-020-05697-2
Ersek M, Nash P, Hilgeman MM, Neradilek MB, Herr KA, Block P, Collins A. (2020). Pain patterns, severity and management among nursing home residents with moderate to severe cognitive impairment. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 68, 794-802. DOI: 10.1111/jgs.16293
Ersek M, Neradilek MB, Herr K, Hilgeman MM, Nash P, Polissar N, Nelson FX. (2019). Psychometric evaluation of the Pain Intensity Measure for Persons with Dementia (PIMD). Pain Medicine, 20(6),1093-1104. PMID: 30204895. DOI: 10.1093/pm/pny166
Ersek M, Hickman SE, Thomas A, Bernard B, Unroe KT. (2018). Stakeholder perspectives on the Optimizing Patient Transfers, Impacting Medical Quality, and Improving Symptoms: Transforming Institutional Care (OPTIMISTIC) Project. The Gerontologist, 58(6), 1177–1187. PMID: 29045609. DOI:10.1093/geront/gnx155
Pawlow PC, Blumenthal NP, Christie JD, Matura LA, Courtright KR, Aryal S, Ersek M. (2020). The palliative care needs of lung transplant candidates. Clinical Transplantation, 34:e14092. Online ahead of print. DOI: 10.1111/ctr.14092.