An Oncology Nurse’s Primer on the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act
When Senator John McCain (R-AZ) passed away in August 2018 from aggressive glioblastoma just one day after his family announced he stopped treatment, it put a poignant highlight in Washington on a need of which oncology nurses are far too aware: palliative care and hospice. Ideally, palliative care begins at the time of a cancer diagnosis and is aimed at managing symptoms throughout the cancer journey. Hospice begins when a patient’s prognosis is six months or less, yet in most cases, as McCain’s illustrates, patients begin hospice far too close to death. Many point to a lack of awareness and education—for patients and the public as well as oncology nurses and other palliative care providers.
The Case of the Comfort Care Concerns
Phil is a 63-year-old man who is admitted to the inpatient oncology unit for severe pain resulting from metastatic small cell lung cancer. His wife and two daughters are at his bedside. Earlier in the day, the medical oncologist discussed additional treatment options or hospice care. Phil decided on comfort care with the hope of getting his pain managed and going home on hospice.