This course examines the principles of palliative and end-of-life care of individuals and families across the lifespan with an emphasis on interdisciplinary care; the role of the nurse as an advocate; ethics; pain and symptom management; and complementary and alternative therapies. Integrated approaches to meeting physical, psychological, cultural, and spiritual needs of the nurse, patient, and family are explored.
Coursework is designed for engagement and collaboration. Here are examples of some of the assignments you will complete as part of NU 490/491 Palliative Care.
- Keep a reflective journal recording your perceptions of how palliative care has changed as you work on assignments and complete readings throughout the course.
- Participate in a student debate based on case studies and provide a substantive argument with support.
- Reflect on the material of the entire course and document how it will impact your future practice.
Each week of this course focuses on a different theme. Your group discussions and coursework will align with the week’s theme as well as its primary objectives.
Week 1 – Palliative Nursing Care
During the first week, you’ll explore how palliative nursing care promotes quality of life through the relief of suffering, including care of the dying and bereavement follow-up for the family and significant others. Learn to:
- Address psychosocial and spiritual needs of the patient and family.
- Provide effective pain and symptom management.
- Promote ethical and legal decision-making.
Week 2 – Pain Management
In week two, you will discover the principles of pain assessment and management with a focus on pain at the end of life. You’ll also explore the barriers to effective pain assessment and treatment in addition to how to work collaboratively with the patient. Learn to:
- Identify barriers to adequate pain relief at the end of life for patients across their life span.
- Describe pharmacological and non-pharmacological therapies used to relieve pain.
- Discuss the role of the nurse involved with pain assessment and management at the end of life.
Week 3 – Symptoms Management
Following up from last week, you’ll explore the common symptoms in advanced disease and the role of the nurse in managing these symptoms. Week three also addresses the physical and psychological symptoms common at the end of life and the ways in which nurses work collaboratively with physicians and health care professionals to manage them. Learn to:
- Describe assessment of symptoms at the end of life.
- Describe interventions that can prevent or diminish symptoms at the end of life.
Week 4 – Urgent Syndromes
Week four marks the midpoint of the course where you will expand your knowledge of the urgent syndromes that may occur within a palliative care setting and impact the patient and family’s quality of life. You’ll develop an understanding of how to effectively manage the symptoms while exploring treatment advice and decisions. Learn to:
- Identify emergency/urgent syndromes in palliative care.
- Identify risk factors and best practices for treatment of identified urgent syndromes.
- Describe appropriate nursing management of patients who experience emergencies in palliative care.
Week 5 – Communication
Throughout this week, you’ll explore the importance of good communication in end-of-life care and the complexities of communicating with patients and families during this critical time. Learn to:
- Identify the three factors that influence communication in the palliative care setting.
- Describe important factors in communicating bad news.
- Identify communication characteristics patients and families expect of health care professionals.
Week 6 – Ethical and Legal Issues in Palliative Care
In this week, you’ll discover the scope of key ethical issues and legal concerns in palliative care in addition to the resources available to patients and their families. Learn to:
- Discuss ethical issues and dilemmas that may arise in palliative care.
- Describe advance directives and their role in preventing ethical dilemmas.
- Apply ethical principles utilized in addressing palliative care dilemmas, including models for case analysis and use of ethics committees.
Week 7 – Loss, Grief, and Bereavement
As the course nears completion, you’ll learn to facilitate adaptation to loss and greatly relieve distress and suffering during a time of the loss of one’s own life or that of a loved one. Learn to:
- Distinguish between anticipatory grief, normal grief, complicated grief, and disenfranchised grief.
- Identify four systems of support the nurse can provide to assist in coping with death anxiety and loss.
- Express an understanding of grief and loss issues as they relate to complex or traumatic circumstances.
Week 8 – Final Hours
Throughout the final week, you’ll enhance your focus on care at the actual time of death, while understanding the preparation necessary to ensure the best care at this critical event in the trajectory of illness. Learn to:
- Assess an immediately dying patient and list five physical signs and symptoms of the dying process along with three signs of death.
- Assess physical, psychological, social, and spiritual care needs and interventions for an imminently dying patient and their family.
- Discuss the role of the palliative care nurse surrounding the death of a patient.