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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 but removing it through surgery is not advisable, the patient can be given pain killers as well as subjected to radiation treatment which would slow the tumor growth rate. Therefore, the main aim of palliative care is to give comfort and maintain a patient’s quality of life (Karkada, Nayak, & Malathi, 2011). Nursing correlates with palliative care in a wide range of aspects. This is because nurses also take part in the alleviation of suffering via the diagnosis and treatment of the illnesses (Lynch, Dahlin, Hyltman, & Coakey, 2011).
Nursing advocacy can be described as the efforts put in by nurses to foster and protect the wellbeing and interests of their patients by making sure that they know their rights and that the patients can access all the necessary information before making decisions (Vaartio, Leino-Kilpi, Salanterä, & Suominen, 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 part of healthcare givers in all countries (Karkada et al, 2011). They are also in the forefront of providing palliative care. While palliative care may be a physical process, nursing will not only provide the patient with physical but also with social, mental, and even spiritual comfort. Therefore, nurses play an important role in the development of palliative care. Since the palliative nurses interact more with the patients and their families, they gain valuable experience and information about symptom management, treatment preferences, and the type of care needed when a patient is going to die (Lynch et al, 2011). This information can come in useful when establishing future care approaches that other nurses can put into practice in their sessions. Additionally, this information can be incorporated into the curricula of the educational establishments so that the upcoming nurses will have more profound knowledge and greater expertise in their field when they graduate. This will enhance the reputation of the nursing profession even more.
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Human beings, just like animals or insects, go through life cycles. Living is the period between birth and death. In most preferred cases, death should come very late in life. When a child dies, this cycle becomes distorted. The potential that could have emerged 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 evidence-based programs. The results of 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 job and make the profession even more attractive.
For a long time, many people believed that having cancer literally means that the patient will die suffering severe pain (Pallium Project, 2005). In recent times, this mindset has been changed owing 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. Nowadays medical professionals in many countries manage to control cancer pains and control the development of the cancer itself. Therefore, cancer patients have their pain eliminated and can now live longer and with a greater comfort. Nursing played a leading role in taking care of such patients. The advance in hospice care has also led to nursing advancement since nurses now have the tools and necessary expertise to deal with pain management. Hospice palliative care is being integrated in nursing curricula as it turned out to be necessary health practice while dealing with many diseases.
Palliative care is becoming more and more popular each day owing to its promise of alleviating suffering, and, as a result, palliative care finds more and more health practitioners among the ranks of its adherents. It is not uncommon to find palliative nursing homes being set up almost everywhere. Nurses, as the primary palliative care providers, had palliative care incorporated into their professional training. In fact, World Health Organization urged the nursing training institutions to compel nursing students to learn palliative care before they become professionals (Karkada et al, 2011). Symptom management is already taught. The attention of such organizations indicates that the conception of the nursing job has changed with the discovery of new techniques of dealing with patients. As more and more nurses are taught palliative care, nursing will become even more central health practice in the nearest future.
Impact of Nursing Advocacy on Nursing
Nurses offer more than just physical comfort to their patients. Some of the patients apart from the physical aspects of their well being may need the support in social, psychological, and spiritual matters. This is especially crucial in dealing with the 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, but also protect, speak out for, and form a bond with the patient. Advocacy in nursing started to take shape in the 1970’s and nowadays it is a fundamental part of this profession (Hanks, 2010). This simply means that the patients and their families have immense expectations from nurses. The trust put in the nurses has elevated their status and the reputation of the profession. Therefore, nurses are trained to become 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 help the nurses approach the patients better.
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Nursing advocacy becomes even more important when a patient is of old age and faces 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. Many old people are now going to home care centers and the nurses working in these establishments are now educated to deal with such situations in a proper manner. The nurses who have successfully dealt with this issue take part in training the upcoming generation of nurses sharing their professional and personal experience (Hanks, 2010).
Nurses always have to obey the physician’s orders. However, some nurses may question these orders as they may seem inappropriate to them. Sometimes a physician can be offering a patient medically futile treatment (Zomorodi & Foley, 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 with the physicians’. This has been done through the education schemes so that the nurses do not 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.
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Palliative care and nursing advocacy are becoming increasingly crucial in the healthcare sector. This was necessitated by the fact that nowadays patients do not just need to be treated for their diseases. Most of them, while their treatment is still of primary concern, need to be shown love and care in the process of treatment. 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 and, hence, give them hope and positive feelings in their lives. It may, in some instances, prolong their life. Nursing, as the predominant healthcare giving profession, comes in handy when a patient needs special care and some advocacy. This is because nurses are the ones to spend the biggest amount of time with the patients. Finally, 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.
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