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Palliative care is the medical approach or simply comfort care aimed at slowing the progress of a disease or reducing its severity. Palliative care is very crucial when a patient is suffering from an incurable disease or when the patient has other health concerns which render the cure ineffective or the cure may aggravate his/her condition. For example, if a patient is suffering from a tumor yet removing it through surgery is not advisable, the patient can be subjected to radiation treatment which would slow the growth rate of the tumor and as well as being given pain killers. Therefore, the main aim of palliative care is to give comfort and maintain a patient’s quality of life (Karkada et al, 2011). Nursing and palliative care are very much correlated. This is because nursing also prides itself in the reduction of suffering via the diagnosis and treatment of the bodily reactions to health matters (Lynch et al, 2011).
Nursing advocacy can be described as the efforts put in by nurses to foster and protect the well being and interests of their patients by making sure that they know their rights and that the patients can access the necessary information before making decisions (Vaartio et al, 2006). Advocacy is crucial as it ensures that the patient is aware of his/her health status and is adequately supported when making decisions.
This paper looks at how palliative care and nursing advocacy affect nursing as a profession in terms of actual practice, education and research.
Impact of Palliative Care on Nursing
Palliative care and nursing are very much correlated. In fact, one cannot exist without the other. Nurses are often the primary care givers and also form the largest portion of healthcare givers in all countries (Karkada et al, 2011). They are also in the forefront in providing palliative care. While palliative care may be a physical process, nursing will not only provide the patient physical comfort but also the social, mental and even spiritual comfort. Therefore, nurses have played an important role in the development of palliative care. As the palliative nurses interact more with the patient and his/her family, they gain valuable experiences and information about symptom management, treatment preferences of patients and the type of care when a patient is going to die (Lynch et al, 2011). This information can be useful for future care approach that other nurses can put into practice in their sessions. Additionally, this information can be incorporated into the curricula such that the nursing learners are better acquainted when they graduate. This will enhance the nursing profession even more.
Human beings, just like animals, and especially insects, go through life cycles. Living is intertwined between death and coming into being (birth in humans). In most preferred cases, death should come very late in life. When a child dies, this cycle becomes distorted. The potential that would have been is sadly lost. However, the pediatric palliative care nurses have been using some of their experiences when taking care of terminally ill children in helping to come up with programs that are benefitting the whole profession in general. For example, Darla Morgan (2009), in her assessment of the children nurses needs, concluded that past pediatric palliative care nurses’ experiences can be used as a foundation in building evidenced based programs. The results from these researches can be used not only in prolonging the life of the children but also give the nursing profession a major boost. This will give the nurses satisfaction in their jobs and make the profession even more attractive.
For a long time, many people had always believed that having cancer effectively means that the patient will die in total pain (Pallium Project, 2005). This mindset has been changed nowadays, thanks to hospice palliative care and nursing. This is because the cancer patients, and those suffering from terminal diseases, have been put under programs specifically tailored for them. Many countries nowadays have managed to control cancer pains and control the cancer itself. Therefore, cancer patients have had their pains eliminated and life prolonged. Nursing has played a leading role in taking care of these patients. The advance in hospice care has also led to nursing advancement as nurses now have the tools and necessary expertise to deal with pain management. Hospice palliative care is being integrated in nursing curricula as it has emerged as a necessary health practice in dealing with many ailments.
Palliative care, with its promise of alleviating suffering, is becoming more and more popular each day. As a result, many health practitioners have come to embrace it. It is not uncommon to find palliative nursing homes being set up almost everywhere. Nurses, as the primary palliative care providers, have had palliative care incorporated into their professional training. In fact, The World Health Organization has urged the nursing training colleges and institutions to compel nursing students learn palliative care before they become professionals (Karkada et al, 2011). Symptom management is already being taught. This clamor by such bodies indicates that the work of nurses is being diversified as time goes by and also as new techniques of dealing with patients are being discovered. As many and more nurses are taught palliative care, nursing will become even a more central health practice in the near future.
Impact of Nursing Advocacy on Nursing
Nurses offer more than just physical comfort to their patients and clients. Some of the patients may need apart from the physical aspects of their well being, social, psychological and spiritual support. This is especially crucial to those patients that may not have an immediate family to look after them. In this case, the nurse becomes the central figure in the patient’s life. The nurse therefore has not only to communicate effectively with the patient; he/she should protect, speak out for and form a bond with the patient. Advocacy in nursing started to take shape in the 1970’s and it is a fundamental part of the profession nowadays (Hanks, 2010). This simply means that the expectations from nurses, by patients and their families, are immense. The trust bestowed upon to the nurses has elevated their status and the profession. Therefore, nurses are being trained to make them better advocates for their patients. The fundamentality of advocacy has led to many studies to look at the best advocacy practices that should be applied by nurses. It has also been incorporated in the nursing curricula for the students. This will make the nurses approach the patients better.
Nursing advocacy becomes even more important when a patient is in old age and facing the prospect of death. In this case, the nurse has to inform the patient in the best possible way of his imminent death. Additionally, the patient may have his/her personal wishes to make. The presiding nurse should thus provide all the necessary information so that the patient makes informed decisions. At this time, the nurse should ensure that the patient’s wishes are granted. Since many old people are now going to home care centers, nurses working in these end-life-care centers are now being educated to deal with such a situation in a proper manner as they take on a tricky role. This training is helped partly by the experiences of other nurses who have successfully dealt with it (Hanks, 2010).
Nurses always have to oblige on the physician’s orders. However, some nurses may question these orders as they seem them inappropriate. Sometimes a physician can be offering a patient a medically futile treatment (Zomorodi et al, 2009). Therefore, it is upon the nurse to stand up for the patient in such cases so that the proper medication is given. Such actions of nurses have always made them very trusted health practitioners. Nurses have been empowered to be able to make ethical decisions, alongside the physicians’. This has been done through education schemes so that the nurses don’t just take a back seat in the actual treatment of a patient. This has made the nurses contribute sufficiently in making decisions regarding the patients.
Palliative care and nursing advocacy are increasingly becoming more crucial in the healthcare sector. This has been necessitated by the fact that patients and their families nowadays don’t just need to be treated of their diseases. Most of them, while their treatment is of primary concern, need to be shown love and care in the process. In the case of terminally ill patients, palliative care and nursing advocacy become even more important. Taking good care of them will make them feel loved hence give them hope in their life. It may, in some instances, prolong their stay. Nursing, as the predominant healthcare giver in the world, comes in handy when a patient needs special care and some advocacy. This is because they are the ones mandated to spend more time with the patients. Lastly, some patients may be too weak or too ignorant to speak for themselves. Therefore, it becomes the responsibility of their nurse to do so on their behalf.