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Nursing assistants are integral to palliative care and are often the most deeply involved and consistent care providers to dying patients. Yet the contributions of nursing assistants are often unrecognized and underappreciated. They are frequently marginalized when it comes to professional education activities, particularly in the acute care setting. This article describes an educational initiative based on the Hospice and Palliative Nursing Association nursing assistant core curriculum. A daylong educational intervention was provided to a voluntary convenience sample of nursing assistants from a variety of inpatient units. Presurveys and postsurveys about knowledge, attitudes, and awareness of ethical issues were administered to those attending the class, as well as a control group of nursing assistants. The results of this pilot study showed that a daylong conference on end-of-life care was associated with improved measures of knowledge, attitudes about care of the dying, and awareness of ethical issues. Interesting points of discussion concerned the points of tension identified by nursing assistants in the care of dying patients, the need for ongoing support for these staff members, and the practical issues of how to best educate and integrate nursing assistants into the palliative care team.
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