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Fostering Community and Innovation at the Minnesota Network of Hospice & Palliative Care Annual Conference

If a person scrolled through photos from the 2019 Minnesota Network of Hospice & Palliative Care annual conference, which took place in Bloomington, Minnesota last month, they would see all of the expected trappings of a large professional conference—attentive audiences, tables of name tag clad professionals engaged in conversation, rows of skirted tables in an exhibit hall with neat stacks of brochures next to a bowl of Kit-Kats. But sprinkled among the expected pictures would be some surprises: A Basset Hound in a bowtie mingling with adoring fans; groups of people enjoying ice cream in a sunlit atrium; stocking-footed meditators walking a labyrinth; people singing, laughing, and hugging.

Since the 1980’s, the MNHPC Annual Conference has grown from a small conference hosted by the state association to one that attracted over 1,000 attendees in 2019 representing 26 states and two Canadian provinces. It now boasts over 65 breakout sessions and internationally known keynote speakers—this year’s included Dr. Jessica Zitter and Frank Ostaseski. In 2020, MNHPC will welcome Dr. B.J. Miller and Dr. Sunita Puri.

As the conference has grown, a strong sense of community and innovation remain the hallmarks of Minnesota Network of Hospice & Palliative Care’s work. And while the conference is their largest endeavor, it is far from the only thing they do.

Both a professional organization and community resource, MNHPC is committed to advancing the conversation about end-of-life care, as well as increasing knowledge of palliative care in the region. From handing out “Immortality Challenged” buttons at a local May Day parade to hosting a choir of individuals living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers, to partnering with an award winning playwright and artistic director to create a script for a play centered around end-of-life decisions, MNHPC strives to bring hospice and palliative care into the forefront of healthcare conversations.

Through strong partnerships with healthcare organizations, community based programs, academic institutions, faith communities, and government agencies, MNHPC is a leading voice in the growing movement to expand advocacy for, knowledge about, and access to hospice and palliative care for all who seek it.

For a number of years, MNHPC has worked to build lasting relationships within a number of cultural communities. The goal has been to listen to the stories and wisdom emerging from each community, to learn and then to create the trust needed to work together. MNHPC’s goal is to increase knowledge of the services available by creating resources in a way that respects the values and traditions of each community. One result of this work has been that MNHPC and partner organizations have created print and electronic resources that are accessible in the Hmong, Latino and Somali communities.

Additionally, MNHPC has teamed up with Minnesota’s Area Agencies on Aging to create training and resources for home and community based health care providers to increase knowledge about serious illness and end of life care. MNHPC is creating an eLearning curriculum that will be available for providers working with older adults across Minnesota.

As a membership organization, Minnesota Network of Hospice & Palliative Care is made up of healthcare providers, allied organizations, and individuals, united under the organization’s mission: “We strive to ensure that everyone has the help they need to live and die according to their wishes. We do this through education and advocacy around serious illness and end of life care.” And as a public resource, MNHPC provides information, tools, and support to individuals and families facing serious illness or the end of life.

In 2020 Minnesota Network of Hospice & Palliative Care will celebrate the organization’s 40th year. It’s a time of growth and change for the organization, and they are looking forward to continuing to expand on the growth and the partnerships built over their first forty years.

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