What does a palliative care nurse do?

Palliative care nurses work within a team of dedicated healthcare professionals to provide profoundly important end-of-life care to patients with life-limiting illnesses. Their care goes beyond managing physical symptoms, as they provide much-needed emotional support too.

It’s also not just patients who turn to palliative care nurses for support. Where patients are no longer able to express their own choices, families and friends may be involved in their everyday care, as well as decision-making. Palliative care nurses help make it easier for everyone involved to adapt to their situation and face the future, whatever it might hold.

The palliative care nurse role

Palliative care nurses, also known as hospice nurses, play a vital role in delivering personalised end-of-life treatment, care, and comfort to patients, as well as valuable emotional support to their families at the most challenging times.

In practice, the role is about improving the comfort and wellbeing of patients and their families, helping them to maintain the best possible physical and mental health. You monitor, treat, and minimise debilitating symptoms that might otherwise cause pain and distress.

Within a palliative care nurse role, common responsibilities include:

  • Managing a patient’s symptoms of pain, fatigue, weakness, emotional distress, or ageing
  • Working alongside a patient’s family, friends, and other healthcare professionals as their condition progresses, helping them adjust to new circumstances
  • Helping and advising on personal care
  • Ensuring patients have access to the right expertise and equipment
  • Monitoring a patient’s levels of pain and distress
  • Keeping patients and their families updated about any changes
  • Answering any questions that patients and their families have
  • Advising on what’s likely to happen during a patient’s last weeks and days, including what to expect at each stage

As a palliative care nurse, you’ll need to be aware of a patient’s decisions, plans, and wishes for their end-of-life care, including DNR (do not resuscitate) orders that protect people from being given CPR to restart the heart inappropriately. Although palliative care doesn’t cure their underlying illness, it can and must provide people with a dignified end of life – something we all would wish for.

The six ambitions for palliative and end-of-life care

The NHS has recognised the importance of palliative care and is taking an ‘ambitious and transformative approach’1 to support its delivery.

Six ‘ambitions’ have been developed to re-double efforts to focus on the delivery of personalised palliative care. These include:

  • Ambition 1 – Each person is seen as an individual
  • Ambition 2 – Each person gets fair access to care
  • Ambition 3 – Maximising comfort and wellbeing
  • Ambition 4 – Care is coordinated
  • Ambition 5 – All staff are prepared to care
  • Ambition 6 – Each community is prepared to help

The ambitions highlight what the NHS wants to see from palliative and end-of-life care. Their aim is to inspire healthcare professionals to work together collaboratively so that people always receive quality and accessible care where their needs are met, and their priorities, preferences and wishes are taken into account.

Where do palliative care nurses work?

In a palliative care nurse role, you can work across various settings to support patients with their physical and mental health. Often, you will be working in or across the following locations:

  • Hospitals
  • Hospices
  • Care homes
  • Patients’ homes

As an agency palliative care nurse with Thornbury Nursing, you will typically travel to and work in different locations. This enables you to experience a number of settings and also gives you the opportunity to spend time working with different teams. This can be great for those who like variety and who are looking to explore different working environments.

Skills of a palliative care nurse

The skills and qualities that are important to possess in a palliative care nurse role include:

  • Adaptability – you need to be agile and flexible so that you can respond quickly and effectively to changes in a patient’s symptoms or care plan 
  • Compassion – empathy and active listening are also essential, as you support patients and families going through incredibly difficult times
  • Resilience – caring for patients with life-limiting conditions can be emotionally challenging. Resilience is important for maintaining your wellbeing and providing high-quality patient care
  • Good communication skills – in palliative care nursing, it is important for you to be able to communicate clearly. It will help you to build strong relationships with patients and their families, ensure that their needs are understood and that their preferences are considered and met

Each day in palliative care is different, bringing new challenges. Patients may be elderly and/or living with dementia or a terminal illness, with families and friends who are understandably anxious and upset. Working alongside terminally ill patients can be tough emotionally but improving their wellbeing and making a difference to their quality of life can also be immensely rewarding.

Palliative care nurse roles with Thornbury Nursing

Thornbury nurses provide palliative care in a variety of settings around the UK.

If you’re a registered nurse authorised to work in the UK and are looking to work flexibly, find out about our high rates of pay. and our other benefits. You can also register to join the Thornbury team today.

Register with Thornbury

We are looking for exceptional nurses and midwives to join our team. Register with Thornbury to access high rates of pay, paid mileage and support with revalidation.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

You may also like

Join in 3 steps

You can join in just X days. Here's how it works:

1. See if you’re eligible

Find out if you can work for us in just 2 minutes.

Go to eligibility checker

2. Apply

Fill in your details and tell us your skills, qualifications and employment history. This should take around 10-15 minutes.

3. Register

Take part in a short video interview and upload documents on our registration portal. This takes X days – X weeks.

Join now

Talk to a member of our team

Call us on 0345 120 5252