Nurses as the largest component of palliative care workforce

A crucial component of the overall healthcare landscape, palliative care focuses on elevating the quality of life for people with serious medical conditions. Palliative care is delivered by a specialized workforce that includes physicians, social workers, chaplains, and nurses. Among these professionals, nurses are considered the largest component of the palliative care workforce and play a critical role in caring for people with terminal illnesses. Their significant contributions to this vital area revolve around improving patients' quality of life, encouraging patient-centered care, offering emotional support, and ensuring continuity of care.

According to AIHW statistics on the palliative care workforce, there were 2,888 registered nurses in Australia in 2016. This equates to 12.2 full-time palliative care nurses for every 100,000 people. (AIHW, 2018). About one-quarter of palliative care nurses work primarily in community-based environments, such as with community palliative care services, residential aged care, GP offices, and Aboriginal Health Services. These nurses offer both direct care and consultative services. The remaining ones work in various hospital settings.

In addition, a sizable nursing staff regularly provides palliative care in settings like the management of chronic diseases, elderly care, or general medical care. Even though they offer crucial nursing services, these nurses are frequently not seen as "specialists" in palliative care.

Management of symptoms is one of the primary responsibilities of nurses in palliative care. Multiple symptoms, including pain, fatigue, and nausea, are frequently experienced by patients with life-limiting diseases. These symptoms can harm a patient's quality of life. To analyze these symptoms and create efficient treatments that can help to reduce them, nurses receive specialized training. Additionally, they could instruct and assist patients and their families on how to manage their symptoms at home.

Another crucial element of the nurse's role in palliative care is offering and extending emotional support to patients and their families. Nurses are trained to provide compassionate care and to help patients and families cope with the challenges of living with a life-limiting illness, apart from providing counseling or referring patients to social workers or chaplains for additional support.

Nurses also play a crucial role in end-of-life care. They work with patients and their families to ensure that their end-of-life wishes are respected and that they receive the care and support they need during this difficult time. Nurses may guide pain management, spiritual and emotional support, and practical matters such as advance care planning.

Patients typically receive palliative care based on their needs. Even though a lot of effort has been put into making sure patients with terminal illnesses receive the amount of care they require, it is quite common for patients to select services based on how complex their needs are.

To create and carry out care plans specific to each patient's requirements, nurses collaborate with other healthcare professionals to ensure that patients and their families are informed about the care options accessible to them and are actively involved in the decision-making process.

As the need for palliative care services increases, it is critical to acknowledge and support the crucial role that nurses play in providing patients and their families with high-quality care.

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