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Clinical Systems Leadership

What it takes to be an end-of-life nurse


End-of-life nursing, also known as palliative care, is a sad, albeit beautiful, profession. These individuals have the chance to help patients go peacefully, ensuring that their final moments on earth are comfortable and peaceful. According to the U.S. Library of Medicine, a division of the National Institutes of Health, an end-of-life nurse must tackle pain and symptom management, emotional support for the patient and his or her relatives all while maintaining cultural sensitivity. One of the primary traits of these health care professionals is advocacy, as these nurses must often overcome language barriers and challenges imposed by a patient’s hospital setting and personal wishes.

Personality traits Here’s a list of other important traits end-of-life nurses should embody:

  • Open-mindedness: These men and women can’t execute their duties in good conscience if they aren’t able to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. This job isn’t meant for someone who holds tight to their views and isn’t willing to respect a multitude of viewpoints.
  • Kindness: These nurses have jobs to do just like everyone else. However, forgetting to mind your manners could leave you with insurmountable regret at the end of your career. Think medical professionals don’t have regrets? Think again. In a harrowing memoir, Dr. Henry Marsh spills all of his revolving around his profession. Pick up a copy of “Do No Harm” to get a better understanding of what goes on in medical professionals’ heads.
  • Focused: Conversely, palliative nurses can’t be so caring and thoughtful that they’re unable to do their jobs. Each and every day is rife with unknown challenges and never-before-seen feats that must be handled with grace. These individuals must be attentive and assertive enough to conquer each task.
  • Great communicator: According to Nursing Link, all nurses should have “solid communication skills.” However, this breed of nurses must be on point to talk to people from all walks of life – many of which may not speak perfect English. Communication also enables nurses to follow directions and sense when a patient may need something before the person knows it himself or herself.


Credentials  Many nurses who wish to foray into palliative care can benefit from furthering their education in the health care field. A maser’s degree, post-master’s certificate and graduate certificates can strengthen a nurse’s knowledge of the field and fine-tune existing skills.

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