Breckinridge School of Nursing
ITT Technical Institute
July 21, 2014
Palliative Care Nursing Dealing with the symptoms of any painful or serious illness is a difficult thing for patients and families to deal with. There is a special type of care available to patients with serious and terminal illnesses that focus on making the patient comfortable throughout the course of their illness, no matter what the final outcome. This type of care is known as palliative care, and it is a central part of treatment for serious or life threatening illnesses. It does not replace the primary care of the patient, but works together with the primary care a patient receives. It is provided by a team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with a patient’s other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness and can be provided along with curative treatment. The primary goal of palliative care is to prevent and relieve the pain and other symptoms that a patient experiences and improve the quality of the patient’s life.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines palliative care as “an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual” (WHO, 2014). In a general sense, it alleviates symptoms, regardless of the hope of a cure. For example, palliative care is used to alleviate the side effects of curative treatments such as the nausea caused by chemotherapy.
APPROACH Palliative care is a team approach to patient centered care. It is provided by a team of specialists that may include palliative care doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains, pharmacists, nutritionists, counselors and any other professional that the patient or family may find beneficial. This team of professionals spends as much time as necessary with the patient and families in order to support them and their other doctors every step of the way. They not only find effective ways to control the patient’s symptoms, but also help patients and families understand the treatment options and goals. According to the article, Knowledge of Palliative Care, nurses serve as the “gateway” to palliative care because they are the ones who can identify and suggest referrals of patients who would benefit from this type of care (Autor, Storey & Ziemba-Davis, 2013). They play a vital role because they are the ones who advocate for the patients and families and provide the direct care on a continuous basis.
Important attributes of palliative care nursing can be grouped into 3 main categories: the patient, the nurse, and the nurse-patient relationship. These categories emphasize that palliative care is patient-centered. All patients that are facing a serious or life threatening illness are unique. They all have their own interpretation of health, illness and death. They also have their own personal needs, hopes, values and preferences in terms of how they would like to be cared for during their time of illness. The patient needs to be treated as a whole. Illness is not only the physical symptoms, but it also includes psychological distress, spiritual concerns, plus social and relational stresses. To be effective, palliative care nursing must consider the physical, psychological, social, spiritual needs of not only patients, but families as well. They must also empower the patient to achieve as much independence as possible regardless of the stage of illness. The patient should be considered the key decision maker in the palliative care process (Dobrina, Tenze &Palese, 2014).
The next category is the nurse. When it comes