national healthcare decsions day

National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) is an initiative to encourage people to talk and express their wishes regarding healthcare and for providers and facilities to respect those wishes, whatever they may be. This year we recognize NHDD on April 16. It’s important to understand that NHDD is not only about care through the end of life, but is meant to reach a much broader spectrum so that every individual may have their healthcare wishes understood and met. The theme for this year is Talk About It –  dedicating time to reflect and talk about what matters most to you.

Nancy Joyner Headshot“Advance care planning should start in high school. In life skills classes where they learn about financial wills, they should learn about health care and advance care planning. Asking the question, “if you were in a car accident tonight, who would make decisions for you and would they know your wishes?”  is always a great way to start. The stigma is a health directive means end of life. To overcome this, it really should be on the continuum (refer to the ACP continuum presentation today), from young adulthood when one is healthy to serious illness and nearing end of life. That way it is not so fearful and more conversations can occur,” Nancy Joyner, MS, CNS-BC, APRN, ACHPN® is a palliative care clinical nurse specialist and president of Honoring Choices® North Dakota.

“Pass the word – Have you had the conversation? What conversation? About your health and future decisions you may need to make?  For instance, if you were in a car accident tonight, who would make decisions for you and would they know your wishes? Most people think of their doctors right away, they are afraid they are sick and dying. However, it is important to have the conversations and there are many people that can help with this conversation. The best places to start are your pastor/minister/priest or senior center,” Joyner added.

Statewide resources, Honoring Choices North Dakota and Advance Care Planning South Dakota offers guidance in getting your own wishes written and how to better have those conversations with loved ones.

“One of my favorite stories was when I was invited into an elder’s home to discuss advance care planning. She had said to many professionals, but was denied due to time and going to the home as she was homebound. I brought along the game, ‘Go Wish,’ and she instantly said she wanted to invite her friends. I told her to give me 20 minutes to run home and get more decks of cards. Four others arrived and we played the game and discussed it. Each of them wanted to get a healthcare directive, which I brought the North Dakota Long Form. I suggested they go home and conversations with all of their family members. Many wanted to play the game again with their family. I also referred them to The Conversation Project Starter Guide. In the end, all five of them met with me again, as an advanced care facilitator and advocate, to complete their forms AFTER playing the game and having conversations with their family members.” Joyner  added, if you are in Grand Forks or want to borrow some decks, let me know!”

For resources and assistance in South Dakota, contact Mari Perrenoud, RN, MSA, CHPN | Network Director for the South Dakota Palliative Care Network at

Additional Resources:

NHDD is coordinated by The Conversation Project. Below are free Conversation Guides that can help you have conversations with the important people in your life about your – or their – wishes for care through the end of life. All the Guides are available to download and print at home for free.

Conversation Guides


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