What's in a name?
A concept analysis of key terms in palliative care nursing
This chapter focuses on the core concepts used to describe palliative care nursing. It explores the different meanings attached to these, their roots and their implications for current practice. In so doing, it draws upon literature from the fields of palliative care, nursing, feminist studies, sociology, history and ethics. In thinking about which concepts to discuss in this chapter, it seemed appropriate to seek some definitions or descriptions of 'palliative care nursing' and to attempt to identify the core concepts within these. In the UK, possibly the first introduction of the term 'palliative nursing' was in 1989 by a specialist interest group of the Royal College of Nursing, the Palliative Nursing Group. This group now represents specialist palliative care nurses in the UK, the majority of whom care for patients suffering from cancer. There has been extensive discussion of the role of clinical nurse specialists in palliative care (see, for example, Seymour et al. 2002), and it is not the intention of this chapter to review these debates, especially since most patients with palliative care needs are cared for by nurses who are not clinical nurse specialists. Nor is it my intention to analyse the meaning of 'palliative care', since this is addressed elsewhere in this book. Rather, this chapter looks at how palliative care nursing is described in the literature and what commonalities may be identified.
One of the clearest descriptions of palliative care nursing is provided by Lugton and Kindlen, who note:
all life threatening illnesses – be they cancer, neurological, cardiac or
respiratory disease – have implications for the physical, social, psycho-
logical and spiritual health for both the individual and their family. The
role of palliative care nursing is therefore to assess needs in each of
these areas and to plan, implement and evaluate appropriate interven-
tions. It aims to improve the quality of life and to enable a dignified
(Lugton and Kindlen 1999: 2)