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What Do Palliative Care Nurses Do: Roles & Responsibilities

Palliative care nurses play a crucial role in enhancing the quality of life for patients with serious illnesses. Their compassionate care and specialised expertise provide comfort, symptom management and emotional support to those in their final days of life. We explore the multifaceted roles and responsibilities of palliative care nurses in ensuring a dignified and comfortable journey for patients and their families.

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is a holistic approach to medical care that focuses on improving the quality of life for individuals facing serious illnesses, such as cancer, Parkinson’s, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. 

This type of care aims to alleviate pain, manage symptoms and address the physical, emotional and psychological needs of patients, as well as families. Unlike curative treatments, palliative care aims to enhance comfort and overall well-being, emphasising open communication and shared decision-making between patients, their families and healthcare providers. 

This specialised form of care is provided by a multidisciplinary team, including doctors, nurses, social workers and counsellors, who collaborate to tailor a personalised care plan to each patient. 

Palliative care can be offered alongside curative treatments, and its goal is to provide dignity, relief and support throughout the entire illness journey.

What are the roles of a Palliative care nurse?

Palliative care providers engage in a diverse array of responsibilities that contribute to the enduring welfare of patients. These tasks encompass the ongoing observation of symptoms and the assessment of the patient’s health, guaranteeing the provision of appropriate daily care.

In addition, these specialist nurses facilitate adherence to  medication regimens and protocols, all while upholding a direct channel of communication involving patients, physicians and other healthcare providers.

Numerous patients require aid with their mobility, and a palliative care nurse can provide support in sustaining physical mobility and accomplishing day-to-day activities. They’re also responsible for upkeeping equipment and supervising its use, as well as offering assistance with personal hygiene and nourishment.

Most importantly, palliative care nurses cultivate an environment of security and comfort for patients and their families, fostering a sense of assurance.

Skills required for palliative care nursing

Becoming an effective palliative care nurse demands a unique blend of skills that cater to the complex physical, emotional, and psychological needs of patients facing serious illnesses. 

Compassion is paramount, as these nurses provide unwavering support during the most challenging times in one’s life. It is, therefore, essential to have exceptional communication skills to convey sensitive information and foster rapport with patients and their families. Of course, this includes emotional resilience, knowing how to navigate the emotional toll of their work while remaining empathetic. 

Palliative care nurses must also possess acute assessment abilities to gauge symptoms, pain levels and overall well-being accurately. So, proficiency in pain management and symptom control is critical, along with a strong understanding of medication protocols and their potential interactions. In doing this, these nurses can tailor individualised care plans and adapt them as needs evolve.

Finally, collaboration skills facilitate seamless teamwork with diverse healthcare professionals.

How to become a palliative care nurse

Becoming a palliative care nurse involves several key steps. Firstly, you must acquire a nursing degree and gain experience as a registered nurse.

While having experience in tending to terminally ill patients is beneficial, it’s not obligatory. Similarly, if you aim to work in the community, having familiarity with community nursing is advantageous, though not compulsory. However, should you aspire to a more advanced position, expertise in palliative, end-of-life care or community care is imperative. 

Community nursing involves collaborating within a distant team, requiring a willingness to journey across your designated region. Therefore, possession of a valid driver’s licence and access to a vehicle is essential.

Furthermore, possessing managerial experience proves beneficial, particularly if the role encompasses supervising staff.

Do you need any qualifications to be a palliative nurse?

Yes, becoming a palliative care nurse in the UK requires specific qualifications. Typically, you need to be a registered nurse (RN) first, achieved by completing a nursing degree approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). This could be a Bachelor’s degree in nursing or a diploma in higher education in nursing.

After obtaining your RN qualification, you can pursue a specialisation in palliative care through post-registration courses. Gaining experience in areas related to palliative care, such as oncology or geriatrics, can also be advantageous. Some employers might prefer candidates with relevant experience or advanced degrees like a Master’s in nursing.

Continuous professional development and meeting the NMC revalidation requirements are essential for maintaining your qualification as a palliative care nurse in the UK.

Embark on a fulfilling journey with Fremantle Trust as a palliative care nurse. Join our team to provide dignified and holistic support to patients and their families during their most challenging times. Contact us today.