Unfortunately, everyone must face the difficult end of life decisions regarding loved ones, family members, and even ourselves however health care physicians plan to make the process easier.

Dr. Betty Ferrell spoke to nursing majors, students, administrators and community members about devoting her career to guiding families and patients through important end of life decisions during The Second Annual School of Nursing Lecture on Monday.

Ferrell has 28 years of experience in oncology nursing and has focused her clinical expertise and research in pain management, quality of life and palliative care.

“Wherever there are people who are seriously ill, we should be devoted to helping those people make choices in how they want to spend the last months of their life,” said Ferrell.

Most people want to spend the last weeks of their life dying peacefully while surrounded by their friends, family and loved ones, yet Ferrell said only 10% of deaths occur suddenly and painlessly, rather the majority of people protract life threatening diseases that have a predictable, steady and painful decline.

“Reforming end of life care will help people die dignified deaths. We can work closely with these 90 percent of people to make sure they don’t live their last weeks or months in pain,” said Ferrell.

End of life care should be incorporated into all aspects of health care as well as look at the patient and family as a unit of care which pays closer attention to physical, psychological, social, and spiritual needs of the patient, as well as education and support for the family of the suffering patient, Ferrell said.

“Most hospitals are not providing end of life care, they are only concentrating on brink of death care. From the time someone is diagnosed with a potentially deadly disease we should be thinking about their palliative care needs,” said Ferrell.

The audience, which was mostly nursing majors and administrators, was inspired by Ferrell’s mission.

“As a nursing major this information was useful to me. I think she was very good and presented interesting facts about the importance of palliative care,” said Amanda Sullivan ’08.

“As a nursing student I feel that Dr. Ferrell’s lecture on taking control at the end of life was important because it is a topic that nursing students and healthcare professionals will all encounter at some point. We can apply her knowledge to our future clinical practices,” said Laura Davis ’08.

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