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FNP Alum and Author Returns with Advice Regarding End-of-Life-Care

"Sooner or Later" book coverFormer Samuel Merritt University (SMU) faculty and 1999 alum, Damiano Iocovozzi, MSN, FNP, CNS, was on the Oakland campus in October speaking to students in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program and faculty about his new book "Sooner or Later: Restoring Sanity to Your End-of-Life Care."  In both his professional and personal life, Iocovozzi has seen many people face an end-of-life diagnosis.  In his first book, he writes about dealing with a terminal or debilitating diseases.

"It's kind of a road map," said Iocovozzi in a 2010 interview with The Evening Telegram.  He said the book "helps the reader to process all of the turbulent emotions during the diagnosis phase and the opinion phase."  SMU faculty and staff agree that all students in healthcare need to be able to discuss end-of-life issues with their clients.

"Though Dom focuses on adults and the economic/political aspects of such care, quality of life is an issue that we should be centered on in all our interactions," said Audrey Berman - PhD, RN, Dean and Professor, School of Nursing (SoN).  "I have had many students say as they graduated and afterward that they wish we had spent more time on loss, grieving, and caring for persons at the end of life.  Curricular revision belongs to the faculty and I hope they will consider the best way to incorporate more of this content in their courses and experiences."

Most nurses will be exposed to the physical and emotional effects of death and grieving as they care for a dying patient. The nurse is taught how to provide support for the patient and family as they proceed through the stages of grief.  Often, however the nurse may not realize his or her own need to grieve.  "We don't handle death very well, especially in the Intensive Care Unit," said SoN faculty, Phyllis Easterling, RN, MSN, MBA, FNP, Ed.D. 

A SMU graduate from the Family Nurse Practitioner program and who has worked with the terminally ill for more than 23 years, Iccovozzi's book addresses information for the conversations that families must have with each other and their healthcare providers at a critical time in their lives.

Damiano Iocovozzi"Mr. Iccovozzi's work addresses the phase of human life that most of the public and many healthcare providers avoid talking about due to lack of information and strategies for dealing with loss," explains Scot D. Foster, PhD, Academic Vice President and Provost.  "Worse, many patients and families founder in the absence of education about the process of dying, thus are often left with feelings of inadequacy that would not otherwise be apparent had the proper education and counseling been afforded them."

"What we need to know about how to die in peace and with dignity is not discussed.  A delusional belief that ignoring it will somehow-miraculously-forestall it, leaves us and our loved ones unprepared for what happens to all of us sooner or later," said Iocovozzi to a class of BSN students nestled in the Fontaine Auditorium.  "Our fragmented healthcare system and troubled economy have left millions of Americans uninsured and uninformed about their rights as a patient, further complicating medical treatment and end-of-life care."

Faculty commends and encourages more alums to come back to the University to share what they have learned over the course of professional lifetime.  "This opportunity affords students invaluable perspectives and tools with which to deal with the totality of a patient's health," said Dr. Foster. 
"It is always rewarding when a former student and/or faculty goes on to achieve extraordinary things such as reaching the large numbers of people that Dom has done," said Dr. Berman.  "His work helps students see the broad roles nurses can have."

Iocovozzi completed a post-Master's certificate as a family nurse practitioner from the University where he worked as an instructor for nine years.  He also worked as a clinical nurse specialist and educator for Summit Hospital in Oakland.  Before being published, Iocovozzi worked in a number of small clinics in primary care and cardiology in Palm Springs, California, where he currently lives.

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