Does a nurse have a role in palliative care? Absolutely yes! Can the practice of palliative care be complete without nurses’ involvement? The answer is No!Based on the questions above, the Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA) program team visited and conducted a continuous medical education (CME) targeting nurses working in Naivasha District Hospital on 18th March 2016 to highlight the role of nurses in palliation.
Management of patients faced by life threatening illnesses often elicits anxiety in nursing staff. The nurse therefore needs to be equipped with knowledge, skills and attitude to enable them support or cope with such challenging tasks. During the talk, the 7 Cs concepts were highlighted as the key responsibilities of a nurse. They include; communication, coordination, control of symptoms, continuity of care, continued learning, carer support and care for the dying. Palliative care fits well in Virginia’s definition of nursing which states, “Nursing is primarily assisting the individual in the performance of those activities contributing to health and its recovery, or to a peaceful death”.
The session was very interactive and informative. Those present acknowledged that they are part of the palliative care team in many ways and promised to work together to support the patients in need. “We will continue to raise awareness and have more involvement to ensure our patients do not suffer, “said the CME coordinator.
The hospital is facing a big challenge with limited staffing necessitating task shifting to ensure patients get the desired services. The palliative care unit coordinator operates the palliative care clinic twice in a week since she still has been allocated other duties in the outpatient department. KEHPCA is advocating for more support for palliative care initiatives from the County and hospital administration to ensure full integration of palliative care services in the hospital.
KEHPCA trained a pharmacist who has been very supportive to the palliative care team and has ensured they have the essential palliative care medicines, including liquid morphine in stock. The team has also incorporated a medical officer who plays a key role in provision of services including; prescription of opioids, review of patients and mobilization of resources.
The KEHPCA Senior Program Officer concluded the talk by quoting Maya Angelou (1928) who said,“I learned that people forget what you say, I learned that people will forget what you do but I learned that people will never forget how you made them feel”.