Intensive care unit–based palliative care has evolved over the past 30 years due to the efforts of clinicians, researchers, and advocates for patient-centered care. Although all critically ill patients inherently have palliative care needs, the path was not linear but rather filled with the challenges of blending the intensive care unit goals of aggressive treatment and cure with the palliative care goals of symptom management and quality of life. Today, palliative care is considered an essential component of high-quality critical care and a core competency of all critical care nurses, advanced practice nurses, and other intensive care unit clinicians. This article provides an overview of the current state of intensive care unit–based palliative care, examines how the barriers to such care have shifted, reviews primary and specialist palliative care, addresses the impact of COVID-19, and presents resources to help nurses and intensive care unit teams achieve optimal outcomes.

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