Betty Ferrell, Ph.D., M.S.N.

Improving Palliative Care for Cancer Patients

Research Area: Symptom Science

Portrait of Betty Ferrell, Ph.D., M.S.N.
Betty Ferrell, Ph.D., M.S.N.
Improving Palliative Care for Cancer Patients

When Betty Ferrell, Ph.D., M.S.N., began her career in 1977, there were fewer than 10 hospices in the United States and palliative care was not well known. In that 40-bed oncology ward, after seeing that the overwhelming focus was on cure and treatment evolution, rather than on patients’ quality of life, she made it her mission to improve pain management for cancer patients.

Learning about hospice care and earning advanced degrees in the specialty of palliative care, Ferrell made it her lifelong work to change the culture of care, to make hospice and palliative care an essential part of health care.

Ferrell has directed numerous projects related to palliative care and quality of life, including early phase clinical trials on palliative care for patients with solid tumors. She founded the End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium-Core curriculum project that educates nurses on effective palliative care. The organization expanded to 100 countries and taught more than 24,000 trainers who went on to educate providers all over the world.

Ferrell is the director of the Division of Nursing Research and Education and a professor at City of Hope, a center for the study and treatment of cancer, diabetes, and other life-threatening diseases, in Duarte, California. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and serves as co-chairperson of the National Consensus Project for Quality Palliative Care. In 2013, the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine named her one of 30 visionaries in her field, and in 2021 she was honored with the Oncology Nurses Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

To learn more about Dr. Ferrell, read her City of Hope biography.