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

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The Profound Ordinary

Caring for the seriously ill and their families is depicted in modern cultural media such as movies and literature as extreme and dramatic. In reality, there is a profound ordinary nature of palliative care, real nurses working intimately with real patients and families solving daily challenges, caring for wounds, adjusting medications, and so on. There are the more notable days when confronted with extreme situations of family conflict, cultural clashes, or ethical dilemmas. But there is also poignancy in observing nurses who attend to the very usual, routine, daily needs of patients and families. I am reminded of this in observing nurses who do such intensely personal care of patients as they decline.


The articles in this issue of the journal tell the story of some of these usual aspects of palliative care. The authors of these articles have given a voice to aspects of care that might go unnoticed: what happens when patients simply decide to stop eating and drinking? How are family caregivers doing with analgesics at home? What is the real meaning of feeding? What is the meaning of spirituality when death is approaching? How do nurses continue this everyday care, and how does it impact their own lives? What are the needs of prisoners, as described in the article by Loeb et al, a population rarely considered yet very significant.


There is a need to honor the everyday, usual, ordinary work of palliative care. One of the readers of JHPN, Eileen Quigley, brought this to my mind recently through an e-mail in which she shared a quote from "The Boss," Bruce Springsteen, who said "I help people hold on to their humanity when I am doing my job right." Isn't that our job as well? Nurses preserve dignity and humanity in most every encounter. Who knew that The Boss and palliative nursing share so much! Who are the true Rock Stars?


Her message reminded me of another quote from Springsteen: "To do my job right when I walk on stage I have to feel like it's the most important thing in the world. Also, I got to feel, well, it's only rock and roll. Somehow you got to believe both of those."


I believe that palliative care nurses do this very well. They do the most important work in the world and also the most basic. Palliative care is the true expression of nursing care, the ordinary care of people who, as our pediatric palliative care colleague Dr Betty Davies has described, are "fading away," as they are cared for by those who love them. As you read the pages of this issue and tomorrow when you go back to your area of practice, celebrate the ordinary.


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




[email protected]


The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose.