Community nursing – week 15 – palliative and end-of-life care
Nurses play an important role in providing quality end-of-life care to seriously ill persons and their families. Their compassionate presence provides comfort and support during a difficult time.
The nurse’s primary role is to provide assessment and physical care for the patient, but they also provide emotional care for the family members as well. They assess symptoms of discomfort, pain levels, spiritual distress, anxiety and depression; document changes in condition; monitor progress; collaborate with other members of the health care team to ensure appropriate interventions are provided; develop plans of care that reflect patient goals; and provide education about treatments, medications, nutrition and other aspects of patient care.
Nurses may be asked to facilitate decision making around treatments or interventions such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), dialysis or chemotherapy by helping patients understand risks/benefits associated with these therapies. They may need to help families explore advance directives such as ‘do not resuscitate orders’ (DNR) or hospice services if appropriate.
Supporting end-of-life conversations is essential so nurses need to be prepared to initiate conversations with both the patient and family around prognosis and treatment options including palliative or hospice care when indicated. These talks can be uncomfortable at times, but it’s essential that patients have access to accurate information about their illness so they can make informed decisions regarding their health care needs. Nurses should strive to create an atmosphere where questions can be asked without fear of judgment or retribution so these sensitive topics can be discussed openly among all parties involved in the plan of care .
It is also important for nurses to recognize when a situation has become too emotionally taxing on either themselves or any member of the team so they can take steps necessary for self-care which includes debriefing sessions with colleagues if needed . In order for nurses effectively serve patients at end-of life stages it is important that we acknowledge our own feelings related caring for those who are dying so we remain compassionate clinicians who could give them best possible comfort&support during this trying phase.