Olga Ehrlich

Oakland University School Of Nursing

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Oakland University School Of Nursing


I entered the healthcare workforce as an apprenticed homebirth midwife, moving into the small rural hospital setting as a nurses’ aide and surgical technologist, followed by obtaining a baccalaureate degree in nursing and working in the medical surgical intensive care unit. My first experience with end-of-life care occurred in the context of ventilator withdrawal in the intensive care unit, where I experienced a death that appeared free from suffering thanks to the expertise of an experienced nurse colleague. Many other patients in the unit however suffered from serious illness-related conditions which did not benefit from this type of knowledge or experience because palliative care, as it is known today, was virtually non-existent. After experiencing moral distress while working in the intensive care unit, I learned about hospice care and spent the next decade of my clinical career providing home hospice and home palliative care. During this time, I was motivated to research pain management challenges not addressed by clinical guidelines and entered graduate school. I earned a PhD in Nursing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2017. I then completed a 2-year post-doctoral research fellowship at the Phyllis F. Cantor Center for Research in Nursing and Patient Care at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in 2019.

My professional experiences include Hospice Clinical Staff Educator at VNACare of Massachusetts; collaborative team researcher under contract for Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to develop and pilot new national hospice quality measures and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation Oncology Care Model evaluation while working for Abt Associates; teaching undergraduate and graduate students at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, College of Nursing; and my current position of Assistant Professor at the School of Nursing, Oakland University.

I have been the primary investigator for 2 research studies about poorly-controlled cancer pain. The first was a grounded theory research study of hospice recipients experiencing cancer pain together with their family caregivers and nurses, with funding from the Oncology Nursing Foundation and local grants. In the second interventional study, funded by the American Nurses Foundation/Sigma Theta Tau, I pilot tested feasibility of clinical use of nurse-led motivational interviewing for setting individualized personally meaningful patient cancer pain goals in the outpatient palliative care setting. I am currently studying the meaning of functional pain goals for hospice patients. Additionally, I am leveraging my nursing leadership skills, which were recognized by my inclusion in the 2019 HPNA Palliative Nurse Leader inaugural cohort, by developing a palliative care curriculum guide for instructors of undergraduate nursing. This project is funded by an Oakland University Oberhauser Award.

I am first author of 6 original research publications, have presented my peer-reviewed work at national and international symposia, and I am dedicated to improving access to and outcomes for persons in need of palliative care through developing educational programs and conducting research to advance this work.