Susan Hickman, PhD

Susan Hickman, PhD

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

Contact Information

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


Postdoctoral Fellowship, Portland Veteran Affairs Medical Center
PhD, University of Kansas
MA, University of Kansas
BA, Wellesley College


Dr. Hickman is a clinical psychologist whose research program reflects her strong commitment to optimizing the quality of life for older adults in life's final chapter through improved decision-making and communication about treatment preferences. The National Institute of Nursing Research has awarded $2.2 million to her to evaluate the use in Indiana nursing homes of a new advance-care planning tool created to help ensure that patient's end-of-life treatment preferences are honored.  See press release at

External Funding

The Walther Cancer Foundation. Funded by The Walther Cancer Foundation (S. Hickman, PI).

1E1CMS331488-01-00 (2016-2020) Initiative to Reduce Avoidable Hospitalizations among Nursing Facility Residents - Payment Reform (K. Unroe, PI; G. Sachs, S. Hickman, N. Fowler, J. Carnahan, E. Miller, K. Frank, G. Arling, Co-Is).

R01 NR015255 (2016-2019) The Quality of POLST Decisions in the Nursing Facility Setting (S. Hickman, PI; G. Sachs, MD, A. Torke, MD, R. Sudore, MD, Co-Is).

The John A. Hartford Foundation (2015-2016) The OPTIMISTIC Planning Grant (Unroe, PI; G. Sachs, N. Fowler, S. Hickman, & A. Thomas, Co-Is).

Walther Palliative Care Program, Indiana University (2015-2016) Physician Guidance and Clinician Counseling for POST (A. Torke, PI; S. Hickman, S. Counsell, T. James, & T. Quill, Co-Is).

The Greenwall Foundation (2014-2016) What do surrogates mean by Goals of Care for older adults with serious illness? (A. Torke, PI; S. Hickman, G. Sachs, P. Helft, L. Wocial, P. Monahan, Co-Is).

Melisa Reasner McGuire Advised Endowment, Fund at Rancho Santa Fe Foundation (2014-2016) Woltman Family Communication Program (Hickman, PI; L. Wocial & M. Broome, Co-Is).

Methodist Health Foundation (2014-2018) Primary Palliative Care in the Academic Health System (S. Ivy, PI; G. Sachs, S. Hickman, L. Fettig, G. Bosslet, Co-Is).

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (2012-2016) Optimizing Patient Transfers, Impacting Medical Quality, and Improving Symptoms: Transforming Institutional Care (OPTIMISTIC) (G. Sachs, K. Unroe, Co-PIs; A. Nazir, M. LaMantia, S. Hickman, M. Ersek, Co-Is).

Selected Publications

Hickman, S. E., Unroe, K. Tl., Ersek, M., Buente, B. B., & Sachs, G. A. (in press). An interim analysis of an advance care planning intervention in the nursing home setting. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society

Unroe, K. T., Hickman, E. E.,  & Torke, A. M. (in press). Care consistency with documented care preferences: Methodologic considerations for implementing the Measuring What Matters indicator. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.

Smith-Howell, E., Hickman, S. E., Meghani, S. H., Perkins, S. M., & Rawl, S. M. (2016). End-of-life decision-making and communication of bereaves family members of African Americans with serious illness. Journhal of Palliative Medicine, 19, 174-182.

Unroe, K. T., Sachs, G., Hickman, S. E., Stump, T., Tu, W., & Callahan, C. (2016). Effect of hospice use on costs for long-stay nursing home decedents. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 64(4), 723-730.

Kim, H., Ersek, M., Bradway, C., & Hickman, S. E. (2015). Physician orders for life sustaining treatment for nursing home residents with dementia. Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, 27(11), 606-614.

*Hickman, S. E., Keevern, E., & Hammes, B. J. (2015). Use of physician orders for life-sustaining treatment (POLST) in the clinical setting: A systematic review of the literature. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 63, 341-350. (PMC Journal – In Process) 

Unroe, K., Nazir, A., Holtz, L. R., Maurer, H., Miller, E., Hickman, S. E., LaMantia, M. A., Bennett, M., Arling, G., & Sachs, G. A. (2015). The OPTIMISTIC approach: Preliminary data of the implementation of a CMS nursing facility demonstration project. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 63, 165-169. 

Unroe, K. T., Sachs, G. A., Dennis, M. E., Hickman, S. E., Stump, T. E., Wanzhu, T., & Callahan, C. M. (2015). Hospice use among nursing home and non-nursing home patients. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 30, 193-198.

Hickman, S. E., Nelson, C. A., Smith-Howell, E., & Hammes, B. J. (2014). Use of the physician orders for life-sustaining treatment (POLST) program for patients being discharged from the hospital to the nursing facility. Journal of Palliative Medicine,17, 43-49.

Cartwright, J. C., Hickman, S. E., Nelson, C. A., & Knafl, K. (2013). Investigators successful strategies for working with Institutional Review Boards. Research in Nursing and Health, 36, 478-486.

Unroe, K. T., Sachs, G., Hickman, S. E., Stump, T. E., Wanzhu, T., & Callahan, C. M. (2013). Hospice use among nursing home patients. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 14, 254-259.

Hickman, S. E., Cartwright, J. C., Nelson, C. A., & Knafl, K. (2012). Compassion and vigilance: Investigators' strategies to manage ethical concerns in palliative and end-of-life research. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 15, 880-889.

Hammes, B. J., Rooney, B. L., Gundrum, J. D., Hickman, S. E., & Hager, H. (2012). The POLST program: A retrospective review of the demographics of use and outcomes in one community where advance directives are prevalent. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 15, 1-9. 

Hickman, S. E., Nelson, C. A., Moss, A., Tolle, S. W., Perrin, A., & Hammes, B. J. (2011). The consistency between treatments provided to nursing facility residents and orders on the physician orders for life-sustaining treatment (POLST) form. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 59, 2091-2099.

Resnick, H. E., Hickman, S. E., & Foster, G. L. (2011). Advance directives in home health and hospice agencies: United States, 2007. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, 28, 467-474.

Bosslet, G. T., Torke, A. M., Hickman, S. E., Terry, C. L., & Helft, P. R. (2011). The patient–doctor relationship and online social networks: Results of a national survey. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 26, 1168-1174.