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consultant, nurse's role, nursing facility, nursing homes, palliative care



  1. Hickman, Susan E. PhD
  2. Parks, Melanie MS, BSN, RN, CHPN
  3. Unroe, Kathleen T. MD, MHA
  4. Ott, Monica MD
  5. Ersek, Mary PhD, RN, FPCN


There is a growing recognition of significant, unmet palliative care needs in nursing facilities, yet limitations in the workforce limit access to palliative care services. Attention to palliation is particularly important when there are efforts to reduce hospitalizations to help ensure there are no unintended harms associated with treating residents in place. A specialized palliative care registered nurse (PCRN) role was developed as part of the OPTIMISTIC (Optimizing Patient Transfers, Impacting Medical quality, and Improving Symptoms: Transforming Institutional Care) program, a federally funded project to reduce potentially avoidable hospitalizations. Working in collaboration with existing clinical staff and medical providers, the PCRN focuses on managing symptoms, advance care planning, achieving goal concordant care, and promoting quality of life. The PCRN serves as a resource for families through education and support. The PCRN also provides education and mentorship to staff to increase their comfort, knowledge, and skills with end-of-life care. The goals of this article are to provide an overview of the PCRN role and its implementation in nursing facilities and describe core functions that are transferrable to other contexts.