When it comes to the end of a human life, few individuals, family members, and other loved ones are prepared for the many decisions that must be made prior to that final moment. But new studies—many of them by NIH's National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR)—are showing that future end-of-life care can be greatly improved.
NINR has taken the lead at NIH in end-of-life care research. NINR funds studies aimed at improving the care of the dying, as well as communication among patients, their families, and their health care professionals. The goal of this research is to decrease the stress and anxiety during this delicate time.
"Nurses are involved with people at every stage of life and across the full range of health and illness," says NINR Director Patricia A. Grady. "So, it is only natural that nurses and nurse scientists would take the lead on the sensitive and vital issues surrounding care at the end of life."
End-of-life care involves more than simply the care provided to a dying patient. It includes palliative care (easing symptoms, such as pain) for those faced with a serious illness or other decline in health who continue to live. Ideally, all health care planning should include palliative care at the time of diagnosis of any life-threatening illness.
To Find Out More
To learn more about NINR and its ongoing research, visit www.ninr.nih.gov. A PDF of NINR's booklet, Changing Practice, Changing Lives: 10 Landmark Nursing Research Studies, from which these capsule research stories were taken, is available on the site. For more information on any of the related health topics, also visit www.medlineplus.gov.
"Patients and families often don't think about it until it's too late for them to benefit from it; that's the problem," says Diane Meier, M.D., and Director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) in New York City.
The future of research in this field involves continuing to develop and test new ways to improve care provides to more patients and families. In addition, researchers agree there is a growing need to teach palliative care to future generations of nurses, doctors, and other health care professionals.
"We must continue to strengthen our research efforts," says Dr. Grady. "Further research on the assessment, planning, and treatment of pain and other symptoms will improve quality of care and contribute to a healthier lifestyle."