Nursing

Expert spotlight: Caring for patients living their last chapter

Nurse Leader Insider, November 10, 2008

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This week, Kathleen Bartholomew, RC, RN, MN, shares some advice for your staff when caring for patients who require end-of-life care.

Q: Some of my newer nurses have expressed anxiety about dealing with dying patients. Do you have any tips?

A: Think of everyone's life as an incredible story. As wonderful as any book may be, there is always a last chapter. As nurses, our primary role is to ensure the last chapter is:

  1. Defined by the patient rather than imposed by the institution or family members
  2. Consistent with how they lived their lives prior to their illness

Here are some questions nurses can ask patients to help with a difficult time:

  • What is most important to you right now?
  • What does comfort mean to you?
  • Is there anything you are concerned or worried about?
  • Can I answer any questions for you?

And here are a few tips for nurses:

  • Be willing to "go there." Be present for your patients at this time in their journey.
  • Let your patients be your teacher. You don't have to have all the answers.
  • Listen. Listen. Listen. When a patient speaks, you don't necessarily have to offer advice. Be comfortable with being silent and simply listening to them.

Editor's note: Do you have a question for our experts? Email your queries to editor Keri Mucci at kmucci@hcpro.com and see your name in print next week! In the meantime, head over to our Web site and view a growing collection of advice from our experts.



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