1. Ferrell, Betty PhD, MA, FAAN, FPCN, CHPN, Editor-in-Chief

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Palliative nursing is emerging as a key solution to many of the overwhelming challenges in sustaining our healthcare system. Our relatively new specialty is rapidly becoming a necessary element in healthcare delivery with every indicator that we will become even more valuable in the decades ahead. Every successful example of integration of palliative care in fields such as critical care, emergency departments, neonatal intensive care units, or liver transplant opens the doors for even more areas. We have accomplished much, but there is still much uncharted territory.


I recently served on an Institute of Medicine Committee addressing the Oncology Work Force.1 That committee found that a key factor in the serious shortfall in oncology professionals was that oncology clinics are full with patients, from the newly diagnosed through long-term survivors or those with late-stage disease, who are seeking attention to pain, symptoms, or other palliative care concerns. Similar reports by major organizations such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Report on the Future of Nursing2 have documented the critical need for a healthcare system that delivers care to our population with increasing demands of aging, chronic illness, and end-of-life concerns. There is mounting evidence that palliative nursing is essential to the future of healthcare. It is a remarkable thing to note that many of us have seen over the span of our careers the birth of a field that is now becoming integrated as an essential element of most aspects of healthcare.


This issue of JHPN describes the role of palliative nursing in hospices, long-term care, cancer survivorship care, and in support of the true caregivers in healthcare-family members. What other specialty of nursing embraces the span of ages, diseases, and settings of care?


If we are leaders and if we are to be a part of the solution, then we must do our work well. As Dame Cicely Saunders reminded us, patients deserve our competence and also our compassion. The articles in this issue address these questions of who we are and what we have to offer to the millions of Americans needing healthcare each year. In this 25th anniversary of HPNA, it is well to recognize our worth.


Betty Ferrell, PhD, MA, FAAN, FPCN, CHPN






1. Levit L, Smith A, Benz E, Ferrell B. Ensuring quality cancer care through the oncology workforce. J Oncol Pract. 2010;6(1):7-11. [Context Link]


2. The Robert Wood Foundation. The future of nursing: leading change, advancing health. Accessed April 13, 2011. [Context Link]