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Nurses' Roles and Responsibilities in Providing Care and Support at the End of Life

ANA Position Statement
Effective Date: 2016

The purpose of this ANA position statement is to articulate the roles, responsibilities, and opportunities for nurses providing care for patients at the end of their lives, and for their families. This statement also provides direction for nurses to support patients and families in recognizing and adapting to a patient’s impending death. Nurses are responsible for recognizing patients’ symptoms, taking measures within their scope of practice to administer medications, providing other measures for symptom alleviation, and collaborating with other professionals to optimize patients’ comfort and families’ understanding and adaptation.

Statement of ANA Position
Nurses are obliged to provide comprehensive and compassionate end-of-life care. This includes recognizing when death is near and conveying that information to families. Nurses should collaborate with other members of the health care team to ensure optimal symptom management and to provide support for the patient and family. Nurses and other health care providers have a responsibility to establish decision-making processes that reflect physiologic realities, patient preferences, and the recognition of what, clinically, may or may not be accomplished. Establishing goals of care for this patient at this time may provide a framework for discussion about what care should be provided. This process often involves collaboration with experts in decision-making, such as ethics committees or palliative care teams.


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