Susan Hickman, PhD

Susan Hickman, PhD

Community & Health Systems
Associate Professor
Co-director, Research in Palliative and End-of-Life Communication and Training (RESPECT) Center

Contact Information

Phone: (317) 274-0032
Nursing E419, Indianapolis


Dr. Hickman's work focuses on improving the care of older patients near the end of life through research focused on ethical issues in palliative and end-of-life care. A primary focus of her research is the POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) Program, a tool that facilitates communication about patient treatment preferences by documenting them in the form of immediately actionable medical orders. Dr. Hickman has been funded previously by the National Institute of Nursing Research (NR009784) to study the use of the POLST in 90 nursing facilities in Oregon, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. Her current work, funded through the School of Nursing's Center for Enhancing Qualify of Life, focuses on evaluating the quality of POLST decision-making. Additionally, Dr. Hickman is a co-investigator and the Palliative Care Core Leader on a CMS-funded project called OPTIMISTIC, which is designed to improve the quality of care and reduce avoidable hospitalizations in 19 area nursing facilities that will include the POLST paradigm. Dr. Hickman is particularly interested in the impact of family members on the quality of decision-making and has pilot funding from the Walther Cancer Foundation to explore this issue in patients with advanced cancer and their loved ones. A related line of her research focuses on ethical issues in end-of-life research, with R21 funding from the NINR to evaluate the impact of ethical concerns on the conduct of research (NR010397). Dr. Hickman's service activities include co-directing the RESPECT (Research in Palliative and End of Life Communication and Training) Center, funded under the IUPUI Signature Center Initiative and co-chairing the Indiana Patient Preferences Coalition.

External Funding

R21 NR010397. (2008-2010). PI. End-of-Life research ethics: Concerns, approaches, and impact.

American Cancer Society. (2007-2011). Co-Investigator. The family living with lung cancer.

RO1 NR009784-03. (2005-2009). PI. Converting treatment wishes into orders at end of life.

Selected Publications

Hickman, S. E., Nelson, C. A., Moss, A., Hammes, B. J., Terwilliger, A., Jackson, A., & Tolle, S. W. (2009). Use of the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) Paradigm Program in the hospice setting. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 12, 133-141.

Resnick, H. E., Foster, G. L., & Hickman, S. E. (2009). Nursing home participation in end-of-life programs: United States, 2004. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, 26(5), 354-360.

Hickman, S. E., Cartwright, J. C., & Young, H. (2008). Administrator perspectives on ethical issues in long-term care research. Journal of Empirical Research in Human Research Ethics, 3, 69-78.

Hickman, S. E., Sabatino, C., Moss, A. H., & Nester Wehrle, J. (2008). The POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) Paradigm to improve end-of-life care: Potential state legal barriers to implementation. Journal of Law, Medicine, & Ethics, 36(1), 119-140.

Cartwright, J. C., & Hickman, S. E. (2007). Ethical and regulatory implications of conducting research in community-based care facilities. Journal of Gerontological Nursing, October, 5-11.

Hickman, S. E., Barrick, A. L., Williams, C. S., Zimmerman, S., Connell, B. R., Preisser, J., Mitchell, C. M., & Sloane, P. D. (2007). The effect of ambient bright light therapy on depressive symptoms in persons with dementia. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 55, 1817-1824.

Sloane, P. D, Williams, C. S., Gill, K. S., Mitchell, C. M., Preisser, J., Wood, W., Barrick, A. L., Hickman, S. E., Edinger, J., Connell, B., & Zimmerman, C. (2007). High intensity environmental light in dementia: Impact on sleep and activity. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 55, 1524-1533.