News From the End of Life: Series offered on caring for terminally ill patients

Research indicates that quality end-of-life care has been sorely lacking in the United States. Ongoing surveys reveal that nurses feel inadequately prepared to care for dying patients. To address this knowledge gap, the American Journal of Nursing (AJN) is publishing a bimonthly palliative nursing care continuing education series.

The series represents a broad outreach to clinical nurses across all specialties that deal with end-of-life care. AJN, the official journal of the American Nurses Association (ANA), currently reaches about 342,000 nurses in diverse settings and positions.

The series of bimonthly articles will present a broad review of best research and practices in end-of-life care using actual case studies to improve the way nurses care for the dying and their families. The series debuted in the May 2002 issue of AJN, and the leading article provides an overview of palliative nursing care.

Specific topics that will be covered in the series include pain management, symptom management, cultural considerations in end-of-life care, ethical and legal issues, preparation and care for the time of death, achieving quality of life at the end of life, and grief, loss, and bereavement.

"Every nurse at some point is confronted with end-of-life care issues. Nurses need to develop a better understanding of the modern experience of dying, the options available to patients and families, and the obligations of communities to those approaching death," says Betty Ferrell, PhD, RN, research scientist at the City of Hope National Medical Center in Los Angeles and one of two editors of the series. "This new series will teach nurses how to manage the many physical and psychological issues facing patients and families throughout a life-threatening illness."

The series builds upon the End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC) project, an initiative of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and City of Hope to improve nurses’ breadth of knowledge on end-of-life care. Previous efforts of ELNEC include the development of a curriculum and eight corresponding courses to educate faculty, continuing education providers, and state boards of nursing representatives on end-of-life care.

Continuing education contact hours will be available for each article. All articles in the series will be posted on the Internet at www.ajnonline.com and www.nursingcenter.com.