The role of a Palliative Care Nurse
Palliative care nurses specialise in providing care and assistance to those living with a terminal illness. Along with treatment, the role requires you to help your patient to enjoy the highest quality of life possible within their circumstances. While helping your patient directly, you will also be providing support for their family members and loved ones during very difficult times. The role requires you to spend more time in the company of patients than most nursing jobs, administering both physical therapy and emotional support.
How do I become a Palliative Care Nurse?
In order to become a palliative care nurse in Ireland you will need to be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI), which requires a degree in Nursing from a Higher Education Institution (HEI). There are 13 HEIs offering such courses in Ireland (see list at https://www.nmbi.ie/NMBI/media/NMBI/Post-registration-honors-degree-programmes-in-nursing-and-midwifery_1.pdf), and all degrees are Level 8 Honours Bachelors.
Any applications must be made through the Central Applications Office (CAO). A requirement for mature applicants is the sitting of an assessment test administered by the Public Appointments Service (PAS) on behalf of the NMBI. The CAO issue offers to mature applicants in July and the rest in August. All applicants are required to undergo a medical assessment, screening and vaccination programme.
A requirement of your degree is to undergo clinical placements, which begin in your first year, usually three months after commencing studies. Your fourth year will see you take a 36 week placement or internship, which may be paid. Such placements will reward you with invaluable practical experience in such varied settings as community health centres; accident and emergency departments; medical and surgical wards; intensive care units; and operating theatres.
Having completed your degree and upon receipt of your Bachelor of Science (BSc), you will be eligible to apply for registration with the NMBI. You are legally obliged to be on the NMBI’s Register of Nurse and Midwives if you wish to practice nursing in Ireland. Remaining on the register requires an annual retention payment of €100.
Post-registration qualifications in the specific field of palliative care may be required depending on the institution of your employment.
Who you will work with
Palliative care nurses usually work in the community, visiting the homes of patients directly, or in hospices, hospitals, retirement homes and care centres. Palliative care nurses will have regular working relationships with:
• Social Workers
• Occupational Therapists
• General Practitioners
• Home Helpers
• Religious Professionals
• Retirement Home Staff
• Hospice Staff
Key skills for Palliative Care Nurses
Given the nature of your patients’ condition, palliative care requires a greater emphasis on the compassionate side of nursing than other roles. Key skills required include:
• Compassion and respect for your patients’ situation
• An ability to balance professional objectivity with compassionate care-giving
• The ability to multi-task and remain organised
• Communication skills that enable you to communicate with patients, their loved ones, and fellow health care professionals
• Alertness to any changes you might observe in patients’ conditions
• Employment and awareness of personal conduct and ethics
• Sensitivity and understanding of any cultural factors that may need to be taken into consideration in helping patients
• Ability to continually develop your education in an ever changing sector
www.hse.ie: Health Services Executive
www.nmbi.ie: Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland
www.nurseoncall.ie: Nursing Services and Recruitment
www.inmo.ie: Irish Nurses & Midwives Organisation
www.hospicefoundation.ie: The Irish Hospice Foundation
www.cancer.ie: Irish Cancer Society