University of Virginia to train nurses in End of Life Care

By: Jennifer Lane | Date: Tue, August 5th, 2014

Hands with Story by Hamid Najafi -- CC-BY-2.0 -

Hands with Story by Hamid Najafi -- CC-BY-2.0 -

In a recent article by Sandy Hausman of WVTF Radio, it was reported that the University of Virginia will start training nurses on one critical care area in particular:  talking to their patients and their families about death, with a focus on doing “a new approach to end of life care.”

For someone who very recently lost a father to ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), this is welcome news.  Anyone who has been at the side of a dying family member or friend will nod their heads in collective agreement.  It’s scary, it’s uncomfortable, it’s stressful.  In these circumstances, we look to someone to help, to make our friend or loved one comfortable.

“You might expect nurses to be experts on the end of life, but UVA’s Associate Dean of Nursing Ken White, says that’s not always the case. He’s been studying what nurses know for more than a decade.”

A patient or family member often feels like “they don’t care” or “they don’t understand” when evaluating experiences with a nurse or doctor.  My dad couldn’t speak since ALS had robbed him of his voice.  He regularly was in the ER or doctor’s office and while overall he got adequate care most of the time, there was always a sense of “this is it?” and he rarely felt understood.  It was as though no one quite knew know to handle a devastating disease like ALS – the lack of cure or treatment, and so it became the “elephant in the room.”  No one wanted to talk about the inevitable, which simply was that he would die.

However, is it that they didn’t want to talk about his end of life, or that they just didn’t know how to?

Read the full article here:  A New Approach to End-of-Life Care

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