Exemplary care of the palliative patient: the journey shared

Beth Perry
Dynamics: the Official Journal of the Canadian Association of Critical Care Nurses 2005, 16 (3): 16-21
Critical care involves caring for complex and acute needs of patients with life-threatening conditions. Despite skilful interventions, there are times when the care needed by patients and their families is primarily palliative. In this article, the author focuses on examples of ways nurses can make the palliative care they provide exemplary. Based on findings of a research study of outstanding palliative care nurses, the researcher describes the possible effect providing excellent palliative care may have on both the patient and the caregiver. Critical care nurses are often called to stand in the shadow of grief that accompanies death. Yet in doing so, these caregivers can be molded into more caring and compassionate people, and more exemplary nurses. Nurses in critical care are challenged daily to meet the multiple needs of patients and their families. Though state of the art technology, medications and advanced skills may save many lives, there are times when the care that is required is palliative. It is in these instances that a nurse 's strength and courage may be tested. By taking up this challenge, and sharing the final journey with patients, a nurse may learn many lessons. In part, caregivers may come to see that sometimes death is neither an enemy, nor a failure. Rather, sometimes death can lead to a more joyous embracing of life. Sometimes death is the only way that suffering can be erased. This article includes a description of key ways critical care nurses may address the needs of patients who are palliative. Specifically, the themes of helping people live on, individualizing care, defending human dignity, sensitive listening, sharing hope, and keeping the promise to never abandon are described. These themes all fall under the overarching theme of simple gestures, which is also described in this report.

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