Caring for seriously ill patients in an intensive care unit (ICU) is particularly stressful when you are unsure if the care itself is appropriate. Palliative care providers facilitate conversations about goals of care to develop a mutual understanding between patients, patients’ families, and the health care team. By applying palliative care communication skills, the health care team learns about the patient’s individual priorities and values, and the patient and the patient’s family gain a better understanding of the disease prognosis and the treatment options.

What if a palliative care specialist is not available to start these conversations? Recognizing nurses’ unique position within the health care team, Anderson and colleagues from 5 academic medical centers sought to expand access to palliative care by offering education and support to ICU nurses. Nurses in the project gained confidence in their ability to communicate with patients and...

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