URI launches post-baccalaureate program in death, dying

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee 401-874-2116

URI launches post-baccalaureate
program in death, dying

15-credit program includes courses in
nursing, psychology, philosophy

KINGSTON, R.I. — December 18, 2002 — The University of Rhode Island has launched a new 15-credit certificate program in thanatology, the study of death and dying.

“We believe that this program will benefit nurses, social workers, psychologists, physicians, and clergy, ” said URI Nursing Professor Jean Miller, the Weyker Endowed Chair in Thanatology at the University.

“Of course, we’re appealing to all in the health professions who deal with death and loss, but we also extend an invitation to funeral directors, firefighters, police officers, teachers, human service workers and others who face such difficult issues,” Miller said.

URI is the only interdisciplinary post-baccalaureate certificate program in thanatology in New England and one of only a few such programs across the country, according to Miller.

The program is an outgrowth of work done by faculty from URI’s Interdisciplinary Thanatology Committee, which includes professors from the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Human Science and Services, Nursing and Pharmacy. The thanatology program is funded through a $1.3 million endowment established by the late Dr. Lawrence M. Weyker, founder of the Old Fox Chemical Co., in memory of his wife, Miriam Weyker.

The physical, emotional, ethical and spiritual needs of the dying are addressed in the program, as are the psychosocial and spiritual needs of those grieving the loss of loved ones. “Approaches for meeting these needs are based on theory, research and professional experience,” said Miller, whose research is in the area of spirituality and loss.

Dayle Joseph, dean of the College of Nursing commented, “This program is aimed at educating professionals in health care to better understand the needs of people who are dying and their loved ones. I see this program as a win-win situation for patients, loved ones, and caregivers. Our faculty are helping students to tackle the painful and problematic issues that accompany death and dying. In fact, when caregivers are able to address the needs of the dying patient in a helpful way, the process can become very positive and rewarding for all of those involved.”

The program provides opportunities for expanding knowledge in the field of thanatology; developing advanced skills in providing specialized care to the terminally ill and bereaved, and enriching personal growth.

The interdisciplinary program is intended for professionals with baccalaureate degrees or higher. Undergraduate seniors may be admitted to the courses by permission of the instructor.

“Professionals will be prepared to work with the dying and their families in settings such as the home, hospitals, hospices, long-term care facilities, churches/synagogues and funeral homes,” Miller said.

Among the course titles are responding to grief, exploring loss through creative arts, loss across the lifespan, symptom management in end-of-life care, spirituality of loss and death, and the psychology of traumatic stress.

Students will be required to complete 15 credits from the approved list of courses with an average grade of B or above in fewer than five years. Graduates will receive a certificate in thanatology from URI. The program will also prepare graduates to sit for the national certification exam in thanatology, which is administered by the International Association of Death Educators and Counselors.

Information on the program can be found at www.uri.edu under the College of Nursing. Course offerings are listed each semester in ARIES on the URI web site. Additional information can be obtained from Miller at jeanmiller@uri.edu or 401-874-5315.