Can Nurses Lead the Effort to Overcome Palliative Care Consultation Barriers

An article published by Forbes last month calls on nurses to lead the effort to overcome barriers in talking to patients about palliative care. 

The Forbes article cites a Critical Care Nurse (CCN) report that identifies misunderstanding palliative care and unclear referral criteria as the two main obstacles making the palliative care conversation difficult. “Critical care nurses need to be involved in overcoming the barriers to palliative care consultation for their patients so that patients’ suffering is decreased and patient outcomes are enhanced,” the study’s authors wrote. “However, nurses also need to be involved because the nurses themselves experience high levels of stress related to end-of-life decision making.”

These steps are important, as the conversation about palliative care is critical to end of life patients and can be hard for families to navigate.  

“[The] strongly held beliefs and misperceptions prevent early integration for many patients and families who could benefit from palliative care,” said American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) President-elect Clareen Wiencek. “And yet, growing evidence shows that palliative care produces positive outcomes such as additional comfort, shorter ICU and hospital stays, avoidance of costs and increased satisfaction with communication in the healthcare environment.”

Are there common struggles you have talking to patients about palliative care? How do you overcome them? Email and let us know what advice you have for nurses or families.