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Pioneering a Movement in Palliative Care Nursing

Pioneering a Movement in Palliative Care Nursing

Heather Stringer | Monster Contributing Writer

Path to Palliative Care

Ideal candidates for palliative care jobs are nurses with backgrounds in hospice, home health, case management or acute care, such as oncology or critical care. They may work in a palliative care unit or as part of a roving team that includes a social worker, chaplain, nurse and physician.

The field is so new that, in most cases, hospitals do not require specific palliative care experience. New hires can be sent to training classes to learn more about topics such as discussing goals and decisions with patients, pain and symptom management and caring for patients in the final hours.

Organizations that provide such training include the HPNA, End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium and the Center to Advance Palliative Care.

Nurses seeking graduate-level training in palliative care can apply to one of the schools offering a degree or post-master’s certificate in the specialty.

Nurses can also be certified in palliative care by passing an exam given by the National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Nurses. To apply to sit for the exam, applicants must meet several requirements, including a certain amount of palliative care experience. The requirements vary depending on whether the applicant is an advanced practice nurse, an RN, LPN/LVN or nursing assistant.

Comfort at the Very End

Although the palliative care movement is gaining momentum, Coyne acknowledges that pioneering a change in care requires perseverance. When he pitched the idea of creating a palliative care program at his hospital, some questioned the concept. But his diligence has paid off.

“When we started, nobody knew what we did,” he says. “Now we have an administrative system that has embraced what we do. Our message is that we can comfort you when we can’t fix you, because everybody is going to die. I get to be with patients and their families through a hard time, and this is really rewarding.”

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