The Australian College of Nursing (ACN) has called for additional support for people going through end-of-life care and their health care workers during the challenge of COVID-19, with the pandemic highlighting flaws in how we deliver support during people’s final days.
The call came with the launch of ACN’s position paper, Optimising Person- and Family-Centred End-of-Life Care During a Pandemic.
The paper, developed by ACN’s End of Life Policy Chapter, calls for an increase focus on patients and families as a core component of end-of-life care during the pandemic, prioritising social support for people at end of life and additional resourcing to support patients in communicating with their families.
Chief Executive Officer of the Australian College of Nursing, Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward FACN, said the issues nurses faced in supporting people going through end-of-life care was proving to be a real challenge for health care workers.
“Nurses have shown initiative and stepped up in their support for patients, carers and families as they move through the phases of end of life. This has included adapting to use technology such as video calls to make sure families could keep in touch with patients during these final days,” Adjunct Professor Ward said.
“However, these processes have been based on the initiative of nurses and have not received the systemic support needed.”
Adjunct Professor Ward said that additional support for nurses to upskill in providing end-of-life care, including infection prevention and control, would help to formalise and support nurses and health care workers in these scenarios, as recommended by experts in ACN’s End of Life Policy Chapter.
“Nurses have been pivotal in adapting to challenging circumstances during COVID-19, and we have seen examples across the world where nurses have done everything they can in terrible situations to support patients at the end of their lives,” Adjunct Professor Ward said.
“By creating formal structures and education systems where nurses can upskill to support people through their end of life, nurses will be able to focus on providing the best possible care to patients and their families across hospitals, residential aged care facilities and in the home.”
Adjunct Professor Ward also praised the contributions of health care reform experts to the position statement.
“Nurses continue to lead from the front, contributing to the broader discussion after a year of extreme workplace challenges,” Adjunct Professor Ward said.
“This position statement shows how nurses want to see the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to continue to improve our health care, particularly at the end of life.”