Over the past few years and particularly since the run of the century, the number of elderly citizens has grown at a very high rate. Thank fully, this has been enabled by the high level of sophistication in our healthcare system with the ability to resolve a host of complications that had in the past become a major concern for the senior citizens (Auerhahn, et al., 2012). On the other hand, the insistence on the accessibility of quality care and with the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, today the elderly population beyond the age of sixty five years is close to one third of the entire population in the US. A study of trends indicates that this population will shoot up to even higher numbers by the next one decade (American Hospital Association, 2015).
Palliative care comprises one of the most utilized sectors of the healthcare system. This is due to these increasing numbers and the increased complexities and frailties of this generation of citizens. Every time we mention the quality of care, the first thing that we cannot avoid discussing is the ability of the healthcare workforce and particularly the nurses to serve the deserving population. With the increasing population of elderly citizens requiring care, the palliative care or geriatric care aspect needs to be further enhanced to provide the required services. The major strain as at now is the minimal workforce as compared to the number of people requiring this form of care (Auerhahn, et al., 2012).
While other departments are equally strained, it is important to understand that nurses in the palliative care system are required to continually monitor the status of the patient at all times, deal with the aspects of self-care which tend to diminish with each day’s progress and still find enough time to provide moral, spiritual and emotional support for these patients. This implies a lot of strain, burn out, fatigue and stress especially in the many instances when these patients tend to become aggressive due to loss of autonomy and independence (Auerhahn, et al., 2012).
For the fact that palliative care professionals need an extra level of training to handle these frailties and complexities of old age, it mostly becomes impossible to incorporate primary care physicians into the system. As palliative care nurses we have to contend with the responsibilities as they present (Krichbaum, Kaas, Wyman & Van Son, 2015). With the aforementioned trends in the demographics, the situation is expected to worsen and without doubt this will compromise the quality of care which would reverse the gains that have already been achieved (American Hospital Association, 2015).
Within these confines, and in consideration of the apparent policies in healthcare, and particularly those touching on patient safety, I would propose that palliative care be considered a special case of the nursing curriculum and increase the enrollment rate for palliative care nurses (Auerhahn, et al., 2012). While much of the curriculum for nursing education has a lot of similarities even at specialty level, it has become apparent that using the primary care nurses for palliative care services has some major overheads as it leads to increased chances of errors and misses. To avoid such situations and others of similar kind, the nursing colleges should be required to enroll a certain percentage of palliative care nursing students in respect of the state demographics of elderly citizens (Krichbaum, Kaas, Wyman & Van Son, 2015). To arrive at the formulas for this minimum requirement, the colleges should be required to gradually increase the enrollment numbers to accommodate the new minimum rate as proposed in each state. This will help avoid the scenario where other specialties are forced to minimize the rates of enrollment since this would further compromise the quality of care within other specialties (Krichbaum, Kaas, Wyman & Van Son, 2015).
American Hospital Association. (2015). Advocacy Issues. Retrieved from http://www.aha.org/advocacy-issues/index.shtml?id=p1
Auerhahn, C., Mezey, M., Stanley, J., & Wilson, L. D. (2012). Ensuring a nurse practitioner workforce prepared to care for older adults: Findings from a national survey of adult and geriatric nurse practitioner programs. Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, 24(4), 193-199.
Krichbaum, K., Kaas, M. J., Wyman, J. F., & Van Son, C. R. (2015). Facilitated Learning to Advance Geriatrics: Increasing the Capacity of Nurse Faculty to Teach Students About Caring for Older Adults. The Gerontologist,55(Suppl 1), S154-S164.