I just read a New England Journal of Medicine article by Drs. Craig D. Blinderman and the late J. Andrew Billings that came out on Christmas Eve, 2015. “Comfort Care for Patients Dying in the Hospital” was a thoughtful, informative article and I am grateful that it appeared in a journal that wasn’t focused solely on hospice/palliative care.
While the information in the article is essential for all health care professionals, I would like to take this opportunity to remind my nursing colleagues that we have a tremendous opportunity and privilege to plan, provide, and orchestrate the care that was described in this article—and we have been doing so for some time.
Nurses spend more time at the bedside and out in the community assessing and managing patients with serious, complex illness than any other health care professional. Our interdisciplinary colleagues depend on our assessments and we play a major role in developing plans of care with our diverse team. We are there having difficult conversations with patients—many times in the middle of the night when they cannot sleep. We are entrusted with their care. It is an awesome responsibility and opportunity to care for the most vulnerable in our society, to alleviate suffering, and to provide attention to grieving families.
So nurses, as you read this article, envision your role in this important care. What would you need to know to confidently provide such care? What would you need to learn? There are several opportunities this year for you to receive more information and education on palliative care through the End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC), which has been educating nurses across the globe on care at the end of life for over 15 years.
Those who have attended ELNEC courses have gained knowledge in palliative care topics such as pain and symptom management strategies and enhanced their communication skill in talking with patients with serious illnesses, families, and the health care team. Visit the ELNEC site and learn more.