We need to attract more students to palliative care

A good palliative care service is responsive, available to families where they want it, provided round the clock, and co-ordinated by a lead healthcare professional or team.

This is the view of one hospice director of care in response to a draft good practice guideline on end of life care from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. 

Sadly, however, not all families will experience such good services.


The lack of resources for palliative care must be addressed and has been highlighted with the launch of the You Can Be That Nurse campaign by Together for Short Lives. 

The charity points out that the vacancy rate in the sector is 10% higher than in the NHS as a whole, and that two thirds of hospices and community services surveyed said that staff shortages are threatening care provision.

The inadequacy of community services in some areas means that there is not enough capacity to provide end of life care 24/7 where families’ want it.


Together for Short Lives believes that more needs to be done to highlight the attractiveness of the specialty to students and nurses in the early stages of their working lives. 

Anyone who works in palliative care knows how rewarding it can be when it is provided in the right way and when there are enough staff to provide a good service. In these circumstances, families’ sense of relief can be palpable. 

Increasing staff numbers is an immediate way to improve services and make nurses’ working lives easier.

However, many professionals believe that a culture shift is also needed to ensure that all staff working in palliative services understand fully the needs of families, can demonstrate excellent communication skills and can implement end of life care plans that are effective. These issues are explored more fully in October's Nursing Children and Young People journal.