Alternative Medicine in Hospice and Palliative Care

Subject: Alternative Medicine
Pages: 2
Words: 551
Reading time:
3 min

The nurse’s primary role is the improvement of the patient’s health, well-being, and satisfaction via the use of appropriate care options and a patient-centered approach to decision-making. Nurses need to know about current traditional and alternative treatments and become involved in healthcare innovations and reforms (Laureate Education, 2009). Palliative care is concerned with managing symptoms (physical or spiritual) to enhance the well-being of patients with serious or chronic illnesses living in hospitals, hospices, or communities. Aldridge et al. (2016) determine palliative care as one of the prominent and fast-growing U.S. healthcare trends. Thus, the main nursing challenge is that Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) palliative care approaches constantly evolve and require nurses to regularly update their understanding of the topic via professional education and research. Patient education should also be adjusted according to the recent trends and CAM options so that the person receiving palliative care could make an informed decision concerning his/her supplemental treatment.

Palliative care may be considered similar to end-of-life interventions as both are employed for the purpose of improving the quality of life in seriously or terminally ill patients by maximizing comfort and relieving pain. The main difference between the options is that palliative care can be utilized to supplement curative treatment (Moir, 2015). Therefore, the application of CAM in palliative environments depends on the health condition of the client and current treatment regimens. The most common CAM options are acupuncture, massage, mental health support group, and art/music therapy (Zeng et al., 2018). The systematic review by Zeng et al. (2018) reveals that acupuncture is more effective for immediate symptom relief than the nurse-led support group, while its only adverse effect is drowsiness. Massage therapy might be integrated into palliative care since it can positively affect mood and lower pain levels in hospice patients. Music therapy demonstrates its short-term effectiveness for patients with life-limiting illnesses, as it offers a personalized approach to palliative care and pain or symptoms management. Additionally, nurses should consider potential ethical issues, such as patient consent for palliative treatment, do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders, adverse effects of CAM, and family involvement in mental health support.

The essential elements of the teaching plan for nurses are continuing education, conducting research or surveys, and reviewing the literature to examine trends and technological advances in the area. The evidence-based approach implies that the nursing practice should be supported by reputable sources. Moreover, the nurse might contribute to the current policies and research in the field by initiating patient surveys on the impact of CAM in palliative care. The care plan should be developed in collaboration with the patient/family, while nurses are responsible for education on appropriate traditional palliative measures (with or without curative treatment) and supplemental medicine. The discussion of palliative care options and CAM with patients/families might facilitate the transition from curative care to hospice care (Moir, 2015). Surveys might help the nurse obtain feedback, contribute qualitative data to the researchers, and identify appropriate plans responding to the needs and preferences of patients. Questionnaires might be replaced with a recorded conversation if the patient experiences fatigue and trouble reading or writing, which is often the case with elderly and critically ill individuals. Family participation in the planning procedures is vital for psychosocial support of the patient and management of mental health issues via the introduction of CAM.


Aldridge, M. D., Hasselaar, J., Garralda, E., van der Eerden, M., Stevenson, D., McKendrick, K., Centeno, C., & Meier, D. E. (2016). Education, implementation, and policy barriers to greater integration of palliative care: A literature review. Palliative Medicine, 30(3), 224–239. Web.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2009). Topics in clinical nursing: Future directions of nursing care [Video]. Author.

Moir, C., Roberts, R., Martz, K., Perry, J., & Tivis, L. J. (2015). Communicating with patients and their families about palliative and end-of-life care: Comfort and educational needs of nurses. International Journal of Palliative Nursing, 21(3), 109–112. Web.

Zeng, Y. S., Wang, C., Ward, K. E., & Hume, A. L. (2018). Complementary and alternative medicine in hospice and palliative care: A systematic review. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 56(5), 781–794. Web.