The AACN Recommends Increased Palliative Care Training in Undergraduate Nursing Education

The AACN Recommends Increased Palliative Care Training in Undergraduate Nursing Education

The AACN Recommends Increased Palliative Care Training in Undergraduate Nursing Education

Caring for seriously ill patients frequently involves palliative care: the prevention and treatment of suffering and pain. Because nurses play a key role in caring for seriously ill patients, adequate preparation in all facets of palliative care is crucial for nurse education. To better prepare nurses, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has issued recommendations for increasing the inclusion of palliative care in undergraduate nursing school curricula.

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The new recommendations come nearly two decades after the AACN’s 1997 guidelines, which influenced more than 550,000 professionals here and abroad. There has been much progress in palliative care since then, and the new curricular guidelines reflect updated understanding and practice in this field. In prior decades, for example, palliative care was discussed with patients toward the end of life. Now attention to palliation is provided throughout the illness trajectory, with discussions about goals of care and available treatments occurring at diagnosis. In addition, greater attention is now given to patients’ psychological, social, and spiritual needs, in addition to physical ones, in order to improve quality of life.

The new competencies also address health care economics and the financial impact of illness on the patient and family; self-care strategies for nurses, who may suffer from loss, stress, and compassion fatigue; how to help patients and their families adjust to and cope with grief and loss; and recognition of patient diversity, including spiritual and cultural diversity, all of which affect the need for culturally sensitive care and communication. Specific suggestions from the AACN for including palliative care content in existing curricula are available at .—Joan Zolot, PA

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