Most healthcare providers know that compassionate care and honest conversations with patients can lead to trusting relationships and better outcomes. Those relationships are even more important as a patient edges toward the end of life, or received a diagnosis of chronic or terminal illness. This is where palliative care comes in.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a surge in demand for palliative care services under circumstances that impede the optimal delivery of this care, causing frontline providers to scramble to understand a critically ill patient’s wishes while donned with face masks and goggles that make communications difficult. The pandemic has made what are always difficult conversations even more fraught, placing added stress on medical providers, patients, family members, and palliative care specialists.
Nurse case managers increasingly see patients with worsening health and more chronic conditions. Dealing with critically ill patients has contributed to more symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression among nurses and other healthcare professionals, research shows.
Thousands of people with serious illness from COVID-19 need palliative care at a time when this typically scarce resource is stretched thinner than ever before. Palliative care professionals held a webinar in the early days of the outbreak in New York City to discuss how their knowledge and resources could be used to help the many people in need.
The COVID-19 pandemic appears to have a devastating effect on people with chronic diseases or who are immunosuppressed, are older, or obese. In other words, the people most at risk of serious illness from the disease are the same people case managers help each day. Case managers should focus more on remote case management, taking the pandemic into account as they contact and monitor patients.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted American life and threatens to inundate hospitals with critically ill patients through the spring. Hospitals and case managers can use phone and video conferencing when feasible. Also, they can follow all infectious disease prevention measures.
Ethics consultants and palliative care clinicians are obvious partners in the task of caring for patients in pain. The skills of each group, when combined, are of great potential benefit to patients and their families.