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
Director, IU Center for Aging Research, Regenstrief Institute Cornelius and Yvonne Pettinga Chair in Aging Research, IU School of Medicine

Contact Information

Phone: 317-274-0032
Nursing Regenstrief Institute, 1101 West 10th St


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. Her area of expertise is in palliative care and advance care planning. She is nationally recognized for her work to help ensure that patients' end-of-life treatment preferences are known and honored as well as for her work translating research into policy.

External Funding

Daily Engagement in Meaningful Activities Professional (DEMA-Pro) intervention for seniors with subjective cognitive decline and living at home

National Institute on Aging






Advance Care Planning for Persons with ADRD: Perspectives of Family Caregivers and Trained Nursing Home Staff (MPI: Unroe)


National Institute on Aging

R33AG057463 -01S1




A Nursing Home Pragmatic Clinical Trial of APPROACHES (Aligning Patient Preferences: a Role Offering Alzheimer’s patient, Caregivers, and Healthcare providers Education and Support)

National Institute on Aging





Ethics of Medication Deprescribing in Dementia Care (PI: G. Sachs, Co-I: A. Torke)

National Institute on Aging





POLST Facilitation in Complex Care Management (PI: A. Torke, MD, Co-I: P. Monahan, L. Wocial)

National Institute on Aging





Indiana Palliative Excellence in Alzheimer’s Care Efforts: IN-PEACE RCT R01

(PI: G. Sachs, MD, with Co-Is: K. Kronecke, MD, A. Torke, MD, & M. Austrom, PhD)

National Institute on Aging





Initiative to Reduce Avoidable Hospitalizations among Nursing Facility Residents - Payment Reform (PI: K. Unroe, MD),

Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services





The Quality of POLST Decisions in the Nursing Facility Setting – R01 (Co-Is: G. Sachs, MD, A. Torke, MD, R. Sudore, MD)

National Institute of Nursing Research





Selected Publications

Unroe KU, Caterino JM, Stump TE, Tu W, Carnahan JL, Vest JR, Sachs GA, Hickman SE. (2020). Long stay nursing facility transfers: Who gets admitted to the hospital? Journal of the American Geriatrics Association

Hickman SE, Torke AM, Sachs GS, Sudore R, Tang Q, Bakoyannis G, Heim Smith N, Myers AM, Hammes BJ. (2020). Do life-sustaining treatment orders match patient and surrogate preferences? The role of POLST. Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Comer AR, Hickman SE, Slaven JR, Monahan PO, Sachs GA, Wocial LD, Burke ES, Torke AM. (2020). Assessment of Discordance Between Surrogate Care Goals and Medical Treatment Provided to Older Adults With Serious Illness. JAMA Network Open. May; 3(5): e205179.

Hickman SE, Meich EJ, Stump TE, Fowler NR, Unroe KT. (2020). Identifying the implementation conditions associated with positive outcomes in a successful nursing facility demonstration project. Gerontologist.

Blackburn J, Stump TE, Carnahan JL, Hickman SE, Tu W, Fowler NR, Unroe KT. (2020). Reducing the risk of hospitalization for nursing home residents: Effects and facility variation from OPTIMISTIC. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 21(4), 545-549.

Daddato AE, Griff M, Shanbhag P, Hickman SE, Lum HD. Appropriate use of Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment in the outpatient setting. (2020). Journal of Palliative Medicine, 23, 449-450.

Wocial LD, Slaven JE, Montz K, Monahan PO, Hickman SE, Callahan CM, Helft PR, Sachs GA, Inger L, Burke ES, Torke AM. (2020). Factors associated with physician moral distress caring for hospitalized elderly patients needing a surrogate decision-maker: A prospective study. Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Hickman SE, Parks M, Unroe KT, Ott M, Ersek M. (2020). The role of the palliative care registered nurse in the nursing facility setting. Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing, 22, 152-158.

Hickman SE, Vandenbroucke A, Carney J, Sandler V, Lum H, Hammes BJ. (2019). Artificial nutrition belongs on POLST. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 67, 1985-1987.

Unroe, KT, O’Kelly Phillips E, Effler S, Hickman SE, Ersek M, Hickman SE. (2019). Comfort Measures Orders and Hospital Transfers: Insights from the OPTIMISTIC Demonstration Project. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 58, 559-566.

Hickman SE, Torke AM, Sachs GA, Sudore R, Myers A, Tang Q, Bakoyannis G, Hammes BJ. (2019). A tool to assess patient and surrogate knowledge about POLST. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 57, 1143-1150. 

Hickman SE, Unroe KT, Ersek E, Stump TE, Tu W, Ott M, Sachs GA. (2019). Systematic advance care planning and potentially avoidable hospitalizations of nursing facility residents. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 67, 1649-1655.

Torke AM, Hickman SE, Hammes B, Counsell SR, Inger L, Slaven JE, Butler D. (2019). POLST facilitation in complex care management: A feasibility study. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, 36, 5-12.

Unroe KT, Hickman SE, Carnahan JL, Hess Z, Sachs GA, Arling G. (2018). Investigating the Avoidability of Hospitalizations of Long Stay Nursing Home Residents – Opportunities for Improvement. Innovations in Aging, 2.

Crane S, Haase J, Hickman SE. (2018). Well-Being of Child and Family Participants in Phase I Pediatric Oncology Clinical Trials: An Integrative Review. Oncology Nursing Forum, 45, E67-E97.

Unroe KT, Fowler NR, Carnahan JL, Holtz LR, Hickman SE, Effler S, Evans R, Frank KI, Ott ML, Sachs G. (2018). Improving nursing facility care through an innovative payment demonstration project: OPTIMISTIC Phase Two. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 66, 1625-1631.

Hickman SE & Critser R. (2018). National standards and state variation in Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment Forms. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 21, 978-986.

Kim, H., Bradway, C., Hickman, S.E., Ersek, M. (2018). Exploring provider-surrogate communication during POLST discussions for individuals with advanced dementia. Aging and Mental Health.

Crane S, Haase J, Hickman SE. (2018). Parental experiences of child participation in a Phase 1 oncology clinical trial: “We don’t have time to waste.”  Qualitative Health Research.

Hickman SE, Sudore RS, Torke AM, Myers AM, Sachs GA, Bakoyannis G, Tang Q, Hammes BJ. (2018). Use of the Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment Program in Indiana Nursing Homes. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 66, 1096-1100.

Hickman, SE, Unroe, K.T., Ersek, M., Buente, B.B., & Sachs, G.A. (2016). An Interim Analysis of an Advance Care Planning Intervention in the Nursing Home Setting. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 64, 2385-2392.

Unroe, K.T., Hickman, S. E., & Torke, A. M. (2016). Care consistency with documented care preferences: Methodologic considerations for implementing the Measuring What Matters indicator. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 52, 453-458.