Nurses: We can lead and transform palliative care

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“Seriously ill and injured patients, families, and communities should receive quality palliative care in all care settings. This is achieved by the delivery of primary palliative nursing by every nurse, regardless of setting.”1
ON APRIL 4, 2017, a landmark statement was released that can and should impact every nurse: the Call for Action: Nurses Lead and Transform Palliative Care.1 This statement was a collaborative endeavor uniting the American Nurses Association (ANA) and the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association (HPNA) in consensus about palliative nursing and recommended actions to lead and transform in ways that are relevant to all nurses everywhere.
In this column, Harleah Buck, the HPNA cochair of this report and this column's former author, will share her perspectives on why this report is important and what the authors hope it will achieve. Our hope is that in reading this article, you'll start thinking about what you will do to apply these recommendations. As an example, I'll share about my involvement in promoting palliative nursing leadership and collaboration through the Wisconsin Nurses Association, and how we plan to use the report recommendations to advance palliative nursing across Wisconsin and beyond.
Harleah Buck: Nursing is the largest and most trusted healthcare profession, with more than 3.6 million RNs in the United States alone.2,3 It's time for us as nurses to leverage our size and influence to advocate for our patients. Nursing is uniquely qualified to issue and accept this Call for Action by its commitments to facilitate healing, alleviate suffering, and advocate in the care of individuals, families, groups, communities, and populations. The ultimate goal of this Call for Action is to mobilize all nurses, nursing organizations, and interprofessional teams to promote access and ensure delivery of safe, quality, and person-centered palliative care to all in need, particularly those with serious illness and injury.
Why is this focus on palliative care important now?
RNs and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) constitute the primary audience for this call for action. The identified resources, opportunities, and suggested actions describe ways that RNs and APRNs in practice, education, administration, research, policy, and other settings can lead and transform palliative care.
First, some background on the process used to create this Call for Action. The world of nursing practice and health policy is ever-evolving to meet the new care needs in every setting, including palliative care. When the ANA Board of Directors identifies a high-priority issue that impacts nursing practice or policy, they convene a Professional Issues Panel to promote engagement and active dialogue with members, and to guide informed decision making.
The Panel includes both a Steering Committee with up to 15 ANA members. They do a deep dive into the topic, meeting frequently via conference call for 3 to 6 months. An Advisory Committee provides additional information, feedback, and advice to ANA and the Steering Committee by responding online to specific questions, documents, and dialogue related to the issue. This is the process that was used to examine palliative nursing.
Representing the palliative nursing specialty, the HPNA was an integral part of this process, with the involvement of both ANA and HPNA cochairs and members, to ensure rigor in developing this report that will guide the development of palliative nursing moving forward.
During the Professional Issues Panel deliberations, five themes emerged that guided the development of this Call for Action (see Five themes guiding the Call for Action). The following recommendations emerged during the professional issues panel deliberations:*
The ANA Professional Issues Panel recommends that nurses fully engage with other healthcare professionals and assume greater leadership roles in redesigning healthcare in the United States.
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