WHAT I HAVE LEARNED ABOUT PALLIATIVE CAREWhen I decided to be a nurse years ago, it wasn’t based on some romantic preconception of what the job entailed. My maternal grandmother was ill for as long as I could remember. She suffered with Alzheimer's and by the time I was 16, she began experiencing severe and crippling dementia. If you've never seen or experienced either of these things first had, please consider yourself lucky and blessed. When you have to watch the person you love drift away from reality and from themselves, into a tortured mental state, the emotional pain can be truly overwhelming. I took care of her in the last year of her life, and it was this experience that found me choosing nursing as a career. The specific kind of nursing that I specialized in is called Palliative Nursing.
Palliative nursing or palliative care, is defined by care that is given to patients that are in extreme and constant distress and pain. While this may seem similar to hospice, palliative care is not limited to patients who are considered terminal. In fact, many patients who require palliative care, actually recover from their illnesses and conditions. Why is this care considered a specialty? Because patients who are in constant, extreme, debilitating and sometimes untreatable pain, need more than just medicine. They need more than just drugs to get through their symptoms, because they can affect not only their bodies, but their minds as well. Palliative care has taught me a lot about the medical industry as a whole, and has taught me about my capacity to care as well. Not all nurses can be palliative nurses, in the same way that not all patients who experience pain, require palliative treatment. Here are a couple things I've learnt in my time in this field:
- While we nurses are not doctors, we still have to educate ourselves on the
latest medicines and alternative treatments that are out there. We can't very
well go diagnosing and prescribing things to our patients, but we will be able
to have more knowledgeable discussions with them and their doctors. For example,
have you ever heard of a product called Limbex? If
not, you may want to do some research, and find out from your supervising
doctors if it's something that could be integrated into a relevant patient's
- Palliative nursing offers treatment not only to the patients, but to their families as well. This form of nursing embodies both the medical, and spiritual care that people need to overcome great pain and distress. Their families may not be physically afflicted, but they are certainly emotionally afflicted. We have to be able to communicate without being condescending, and always relay care and calm when dealing with family members.
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