The Vital Role of Nurse Practitioners in Palliative Care

Palliative Care

Enhanced quality of life, patient-centered care aligned with individual goals, and reduced healthcare expenditures represent the advantages of palliative care. Individuals requiring palliative care in Utah often grapple with chronic conditions, which may be terminal or non-terminal, encompassing conditions like neurological trauma, cancer, lung disease, Alzheimer’s, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Crohn’s Disease, among others. With the continual progress in technology and pharmaceuticals, there is a rising population of seriously ill individuals necessitating palliative care in both home care and hospice settings.

Good Shepherd Home Care & Hospice offers palliative care, home care, and hospice in Utah with experienced and caring nurse practitioners. Keep reading to learn how nurse practitioners in palliative care can help your loved ones.

Elements of Palliative Care

Within a palliative care facility in Utah, the collaborative palliative care team includes physicians and nurse practitioners dedicated to assisting patients in achieving their life goals. They address symptoms that impede the patient’s daily life by modifying pain medications and dietary plans, facilitating the comprehension of their diagnosis and treatment options, articulating treatment objectives, and collaborating with other medical professionals for comprehensive care. Crucially, they engage with patients to support them in making medical decisions that align with their life goals and principles.

In the United States, palliative care operates at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels. Primary palliative care involves fundamental palliative care skills and can be delivered by nurse practitioners. Secondary palliative care is administered by clinicians who adopt a consultative approach and possess specialized knowledge, particularly for patients with more intricate diseases. Tertiary palliative care is conducted at advanced medical research and academic institutions, serving at the forefront of field advancements.

What Responsibilities in Primary Palliative Care Can Nurse Practitioners Assume?

Nurse practitioners in Utah can be present in various medical fields or healthcare environments, ranging from large urban hospitals to small rural community clinics. As a result, nurse practitioners are in a favorable position to conduct comprehensive symptom evaluations, manage symptoms effectively, and commence and lead discussions related to advanced care planning.

Managing Symptoms

Nurse practitioners are vital in supporting Utah palliative care patients by addressing their symptom management needs. By assessing a patient’s symptoms, the NP can discern the progression of the patient’s disease or condition and understand its impact on the patient’s overarching goals.

In the realm of symptom management, nurse practitioners possess the ability to examine patients, assess their symptoms and conditions, and effectively address their healthcare needs. They are proficient in explaining various therapies and treatments, along with delineating the associated risks and benefits.

While physical pain and discomfort are primary considerations, nurse practitioners must also address potential spiritual or emotional distress experienced by palliative patients. To deliver optimal care, NPs should delicately inquire about patients’ religious or spiritual beliefs and explore ways to incorporate them into their personalized care plans. This task demands nuanced interpersonal communication and a high level of empathy and compassion.

Advanced Care Planning

Nurse practitioners may actively participate in a patient’s advance care planning alongside their MD and family. In this role, nurse practitioners contribute to identifying the designated medical decision-makers for the patient and understanding their healthcare preferences.

When engaged in advanced care planning, nurses in Utah must engage in transparent and open discussions about symptoms, diagnoses, and prognosis, involving the patient and possibly their family. Given the complexity and seriousness of a patient’s illness, these conversations are essential to align with their healthcare preferences. Ideally, these discussions should commence in the outpatient setting, allowing patients and their families ample time to reflect on these intricate and significant decisions.

Throughout advance care planning conversations, NPs should be prepared to discuss disease progression, potential therapies or interventions, and prognosis. While these conversations may be challenging, fostering open communication about these matters is a skill that can be developed.

Additional Responsibilities for Nurse Practitioners in Primary Palliative Care

The field of palliative care is intricate and time-consuming. While NPs play a crucial role in symptom management and advance care planning, there is potential for them to assume other responsibilities in palliative care moving forward.

Moving to Hospice Care

While providing palliative care for patients, it becomes crucial to broach the topic of hospice care in Utah. If nurse practitioners anticipate that their patients may pass away within six months due to their illness, it is essential to engage in a discussion about a hospice referral. Although NPs presently cannot authorize the certification necessary for transitioning patients to hospice care, they can educate patients about available options and provide insights into what to anticipate. If the patient desires, the nurse practitioner can also remain involved in a consultative capacity after the patient is admitted to hospice.

Addressing Code Status

In palliative care, engaging in discussions about code status involves conversing with the patient about their priorities and vision for the quality of life they desire.

Nurse practitioners might need to collaborate with specialists involved in the patient’s care to explore available therapeutic options. Even if the specialist has previously discussed this matter with the patient, NPs can reinforce crucial information during subsequent interactions.

Consistency in messaging from healthcare providers in Utah significantly contributes to reducing patient confusion and fostering a sense of empowerment. NPs can provide additional information to patients regarding the risks and benefits of treatment, along with expected outcomes. Nurse practitioners should always encourage patients to ask questions and review the information discussed.

Make Referrals as Necessary

Nurse practitioners frequently lack expertise in palliative care. In instances involving challenging and intricate symptoms, sensitive family dynamics, or contentious healthcare decisions, seeking guidance from a palliative care specialist in Utah is advisable.

Bridging Gaps in Primary Palliative Care

Palliative care is paramount in offering additional support to patients facing life-threatening or life-limiting illnesses, helping them effectively manage their conditions and maintain a high quality of life. Recent research highlights that nurse practitioners can play a unique and essential role in addressing the existing gaps in palliative care by:

  • Consulting with specialists
  • Evaluating medical conditions
  • Managing symptoms
  • Providing ongoing care
  • Educating patients and families about treatments and prognosis
  • Giving psychosocial support to patients and families
  • Advocating for the patient’s rights and wishes

Undoubtedly, the involvement of nurse practitioners is integral to palliative care, contributing significantly to the enhancement of care for seriously ill patients.

We Can Help with Palliative Care

Since the 1970s, nurses have actively participated in hospice care. The recent introduction of palliative care for chronically ill and terminal patients has led nurse practitioners to forge innovative roles within this specialized field. Despite facing challenges in practice, the evolution of new reimbursement guidelines and the availability of educational opportunities are driving the advancement of these roles. Nurse practitioners now care for the frail elderly in diverse settings such as skilled nursing facilities, outpatient geriatric clinics, and home care.

Palliative care desires to enhance the quality of life for patients facing serious or life-threatening diseases. In this field, the nurse practitioner plays a crucial role in delivering holistic care, utilizing diagnostic and treatment expertise, and assessing the efficient use of resources. Our palliative care nurses in Utah serve as specialists and leaders in disease-modifying care, pain, and symptom management, prioritizing the highest quality of life and providing compassionate end-of-life care.

About Good Shepherd Home Care & Hospice

Good Shepherd Home Care & Hospice has been a steadfast choice for community care for over four decades. Our trained and compassionate staff is committed to providing personalized care solutions for each client and family within our programs. Our focus centers on the individual and their loved ones throughout the care journey.

We offer comprehensive support, addressing the physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological, and social needs of clients and their families. Good Shepherd Home Care & Hospice is equipped to deliver care in various settings, including homes, assisted living centers, nursing facilities, or The Good Shepherd Hospice House.

As the community’s most seasoned and only non-profit hospice, Good Shepherd Home Care & Hospice is committed to providing compassionate end-of-life care for individuals and their families.

The hospice care team at Good Shepherd Home Care & Hospice comprises medical directors, registered nurses, certified home health aides, social workers, bereavement coordinators, hospice chaplains, therapists, registered dietitians, and volunteers.

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Suppose you are seeking a comprehensive, holistic approach to in-home hospice care that emphasizes the whole person’s well-being rather than isolated symptoms. In that case, you can rely on Good Shepherd Home Care & Hospice. Contact our nurse practitioners in Utah today to discover more about the supportive and compassionate palliative care we offer for your loved ones.