How the Alive Institute is Working to Change the World Around Us

Alive has been a pioneering organization from the very beginning. Our founders, Dr. and Mrs. David Barton and the late Dr. John Flexner, brought an entire branch of medicine to Tennessee – hospice care – that did not exist here before 1975. They began offering grief support because they knew families needed someone to turn to as they faced the heartache of loss.

Thirdly, they envisioned that Alive would advance education, outreach, advocacy and innovation not only within our organization, but in a far-reaching way that would shape the world around us in regard to how we confront dying, death and grief.

We have been focused on building a robust education and training operation at Alive over the last five years in keeping with our founders’ vision, and the Alive Institute is working to fulfill the needs they identified 42 years ago. We are doing this in many ways:

Ongoing education for our care teams.

In order to set the bar for quality of care, we have to consistently raise it. To this end, we offer End-of-Life Nursing Education (ELNEC) training for all Alive Hospice nurses. Additionally, our clinicians take part in monthly Case Conference presentations led by a different clinical team each month as well as Disease-Specific End-of-Life Care presentations led by Alive’s Medical Services Team with involvement from our hospice clinical pharmacist, registered nurses, social workers and chaplains.

More education.

The family of the late Mr. Jim Regan, an Alive volunteer who later received hospice care at our Nashville Residence, generously donated money to support our amazing nursing staff at all levels to become members of their professional association, the Hospice and Palliative Care Association (HPNA). Partly because of this generous gift, all levels of nurses who have been with Alive Hospice for two years are eligible to participate in study sessions for the HPNA certification exam. Becoming certified as a hospice and palliative registered nurse, nursing assistant, licensed practical nurse, administrator or advanced practice nurse validates these staff members’ expertise and ensures an even higher level of care to our patients and families.

Community outreach and education.

Our growing community outreach provides education to the community throughout every month and throughout the year with Lunch and Learn programs at each of our locations (Nashville, Murfreesboro, Hendersonville, Lebanon); by connecting with local faith communities, faith leaders and lay leaders with Interfaith Fellowship Breakfasts (new this year) and our annual Faith and Spirituality Symposium; and by having a continual presence at senior centers, neighborhood centers, schools and civic groups.


As a result of a generous grant from The Memorial Foundation, an innovative idea has come to fruition here at Alive. We began piloting the Alive SHARE simulated training program for difficult end-of-life conversations in 2016, and we have officially launched the program for all who wish to receive the specialized, immersive learning experience we offer. (The acronym SHARE stands for Supporting patients and families through Honesty, Autonomy, Reflection and Empathy.)

Our goal: to help physicians, nurses and others advocate for their patients’ well-being through effective and empathic conversations about end-of-life care with patients, families and other health care providers. Alive SHARE has received national press recognition for these efforts, which we believe has the potential to help create significant cultural change in the way we approach dying and death. Stay tuned as Alive SHARE continues to grow these programs.


Alive convened Advocacy Focus Groups in 2016 to understand our underserved populations and barriers to accessing hospice services. Outcomes from these focus groups are helping us to develop culturally appropriate ways to deliver information on hospice services. Our goal is to have all ethnic groups be comfortable with accessing hospice services when applicable, for optimal patient and family care during this very sacred time in life.

As you can see, the Alive Institute is doing incredible things, and this is only the beginning. We invite you to come learn with us.

For further information about the Alive Institute, contact VP of Mission-Based Services Judy Orr at 615.327.1085 or