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All Nurses Need to Practice Primary Palliative Nursing!

Do you incorporate palliative care into your clinical practice? Can you help optimize the quality of life for those you care for?

Early in 2017, The American Nurses Association, in collaboration with the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association, published a joint position statement, “Call to Action: Nurses Lead & Transform Palliative Care”. The recommendation – all nurses should be prepared to provide primary palliative care to patients with serious illness and their families. With the older population living longer, and with multiple co-morbidities, and the anticipated workforce shortages in specialty palliative care, it is imperative that all nurses become skilled in providing primary palliative care across all clinical settings.


“Some people mistakenly believe that palliative care is only for patients who are incurably ill. The goal of palliative care is to provide relief from symptoms, and stress of a serious illness – whatever the diagnosis.”

Raymond Yung
M.D. chief of the Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine, U-M Medical School


Primary Palliative Nursing

Primary palliative nursing is defined as, “Fundamental care of patients with serious or life-threatening illness or injury and their families provided by non-palliative care specialty registered nurses…This allows nurses to provide “patient and family-centered care that optimizes quality of life by anticipating, preventing, and treating suffering” (NCP, 2013, p. 9)’ (ANA & HPNA, 2014, p. 66). Primary palliative nursing includes assessing and managing pain and symptoms related to illness and/or treatment side effects; communicating with patients and families about disease progression; addressing hopes, fears and issues related to serious illness, and providing competent, culturally sensitive and compassionate care to those who are dying and their family members. As one older nurse says, “This is the essence of nursing; a pulling together of all your knowledge and experience to actually care for and about another individual, helping them live longer, more satisfying lives.”

Traditionally, nursing education has not prepared nurses with the skills needed to provide palliative care. Historically, palliative care was considered to be a sub-specialty for nurses specializing in hospice care. In fact, prior to 2008 there was no Certificate of Added Qualification for hospice and palliative care nurses. (NHPCO, History of Hospice Care, 2016). Now you can embrace the palliative care nursing approach through training and continuing education offered by Relias and the End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC). The End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium, the experts in palliative care, offers in-person train the trainer conferences designed to provide you, and later, your colleagues, necessary palliative care skills. Relias, the premier provider of online education, partners with ELNEC to offer convenient, flexible, approved, continuing education activities in the field of palliative care. Self-paced, interactive, engaging content, authored by ELNEC and designed by Relias, is available in the following curricula.

  • ELNEC-Core, for most medical surgical nurses
  • ELNEC-Pediatrics
  • ELNEC-Geriatrics
  • ELNEC- Critical Care

The education covers primary palliative care skills such as pain and symptom management, communication skills in difficult conversations and care transitions, as well as care at end-of-life.

Incorporating palliative care principles and skills into your nursing practice is important – to policy-makers and industry thought leaders, to your job satisfaction and feelings of self-worth, to your client’s comfort and peace, and to the families of those you serve. It is simply the RIGHT thing to do.

Palliative care is being embraced by healthcare payers and ACOs as a means of treating the whole patient. Palliative care has been proven to lower costs, but providers are now faced with a shortage of trained palliative care professionals.

Relias is grateful to Dr. Polly Mazanec and End of Life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC) for detailing the importance of all senior care providers emphasizing and providing palliative care training.


Palliative Care Course Preview

Glance over this 30-second course preview to the ELNEC palliative care training. Ready to learn more? Explore our palliative care solutions.

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