Recommendations to Leverage the Palliative Nursing Role During COVID-19 and Future Public Health Crises

William E. Rosa, PhD, MBE, ACHPN, FAANP, FAAN; Tamryn F. Gray, PhD, RN; Kimberly Chow, RN, ANP-BC, ACHPN; Patricia M. Davidson, PhD, RN, FAAN; J. Nicholas Dionne-Odom, PhD, MSN, MA, ACHPN, FPCN; Viola Karanja, BSN, RN; Judy Khanyola, MSc, RCHN; Julius D. N. Kpoeh, ASN, RN; Joseph Lusaka, BSc HM, DCM, PA; Samuel T. Matula, PhD, RN, PCNS-BC; Polly Mazanec, PhD, AOCN, ACHPN, FPCN, FAAN; Patricia J. Moreland, PhD, CPNP, FAAN; Shila Pandey, MSN, AGPCNP-BC, ACHPN; Amisha Parekh de Campos, PhD, MPH, CHPN; Salimah H. Meghani, PhD, MBE, RN, FAAN


Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing. 2020;22(4):260-269. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


With the daily number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and associated deaths rising exponentially, social fabrics on a global scale are being worn by panic, uncertainty, fear, and other consequences of the health care crisis. Comprising more than half of the global health care workforce and the highest proportion of direct patient care time than any other health professional, nurses are at the forefront of this crisis. Throughout the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, palliative nurses will increasingly exercise their expertise in symptom management, ethics, communication, and end-of-life care, among other crucial skills. The literature addressing the palliative care response to COVID-19 has surged, and yet, there is a critical gap regarding the unique contributions of palliative nurses and their essential role in mitigating the sequelae of this crisis. Thus, the primary aim herein is to provide recommendations for palliative nurses and other health care stakeholders to ensure their optimal value is realized and to promote their well-being and resilience during COVID-19 and, by extension, in anticipation of future public health crises.


Palliative nurses play a primary and significant role in supporting the broader health care system. Right now, palliative nurses worldwide are providing an extra layer of support to nurses and care teams in emergency departments, intensive care units, skilled nursing facilities, and long-term-care environments. In the face of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the palliative nursing workforce is delivering essential support and specialist services pertaining to symptom management, ethics and decision-making, communication, and care at the time of death, among others. As this pandemic continues to evolve, it has become clearer now more than ever that the work of the palliative nurse is indispensable as issues surrounding serious illness, dying, and death are no longer taboo but have become continuous threads of daily mainstream media, politics, and policy-making.

These authors argue that strategic and consistent investment in palliative nurses during COVID-19 and expanding their role and scope of work will strengthen the broader health system's resilience to respond effectively to COVID-19, as well as future pandemics and public health crises. While literature on the myriad health impacts of COVID-19 is rapidly emerging, the attention to palliative nurses in the broader COVID-19 discussion is a crucial gap requiring urgent attention. This article aims to address this gap. A compilation of resources and recommendations from palliative care and other key organizations for ongoing education and well-being support is also provided.