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Why we need end-of-life careworkers during a pandemic

By: Cindy L. Cain

We all have seen the videos of Italians singing to healthcare workers after their long COVID-19 shifts, or the pictures of emergency room doctors bruised by their PPE as they care for patients and try to protect themselves. These images convey how reliant we are on quality healthcare workers right now, but we don’t always recognize the wide variety of expertise and skill needed to create high quality care.

End-of-life careworkers, such as hospice and palliative care professionals, are not often in the limelight, but are increasingly necessary for ensuring that people with COVID-19 and their family members are given the best care possible. A new article in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management reviews existing literature from around the globe to define what hospice and palliative care workers bring to care during a pandemic.

In addition to providing direct care to patients and their family members, the authors find that hospice and palliative care professionals play a role in number of central care processes. They help create and refine policies; train other healthcare workers on pain and symptom management; coordinate care between providers and organizations; collate and monitor data on needs; and, flexibly deploy staff and resources to meet needs. Hospice and palliative care workers can also ensure that spiritual and psychosocial needs are met, and that staff are supported during the emotionally and physically difficult task of caring for people suffering from COVID-19.

Given the great variety of ways hospice and palliative care workers can help during this pandemic, some scholars are arguing that this is a moment where we should be committed to expanding hospice and palliative care services. Recognizing their value is an essential step in that expansion.

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