On Friday October 7, 2011, Boston College William F. Connell School of Nursing hosted a Pediatric Palliative Care Regional Conference to discuss the current status and important implications of palliative care for pediatric patients.  Two of the speakers for the day were Betty Ferrell, RN, Ph.D., FAAN, FPCN, professor and research scientist at City of Hope and Joanne Wolfe, MD, MPH division chief who works within Pediatric Palliative Care Service, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Director, Pediatric Palliative Care Children’s Hospital Boston.

Pediatric palliative care is a relatively new and upcoming field of nursing.  It is often disregarded in the health care setting, but thanks to much research and leaders in nursing, the once ignored subject is taking on a new role.  Palliative care, as Dr. Ferrell described, is the type of care an individual would want for oneself and/or a loved one if they were seriously ill or dying.  It focuses on comfort, quality of life, and pain and symptom management.  Families generally have a difficult time accepting death or chronic illness, especially when it comes to children.  There are several palliative care programs available such as hospice, but when it comes to pediatric palliative care, the resources are very limited.

This conference emphasized the significance of instituting such programs to improve the quality of life for children facing chronic illness and also to facilitate the coping process for the families of these children.  However, in order to provide this type of care, much research still needs to be done.  The theme of the day seemed to stem from Dr. Ferrell’s simple comment, “you can’t do what you don’t know.” I found this so basic, but also incredibly important as a prospective nurse.  While we all have good intentions in the care we provide, it will not be effective if we are not educated and practice in providing the right type of care.  It is important to be aware of ineffective health practices or areas of care that do not have adequate care models to follow.  Each of the speakers at this conference shared a unique trait: the ability to recognize where better health care is needed and the drive to implement new practices.  I hope to be aware of such matter when providing my own care so that I can be sure to always provide the correct evidenced-based practice in each situation.

In order to develop adequate guidelines or models for effective pediatric palliative care, further research and studies are required.  A group of faculty at Boston College is currently taking on the task of researching this topic.  As an undergraduate research fellow, I will have the opportunity to assist with the project as well.  Overall, this conference gave me a better understanding for the need of pediatric palliative care as well as an insight to what this type of care entails.  I plan to always seek to provide proper evidenced-based care in my own clinical practice.  Furthermore, assisting with this project will help me to develop my own research skills to apply in my nursing career.