Through the Neuroscience Nursing Seminar, the National Neuroscience Institute highlights the importance of palliative care, which is not limited to end-of-life care.
The educational event is a good start to stress that patient care does not deteriorate after a hospital stay or when their condition has worsened, but it continues in different settings.
Nurses play a critical role in helping patients to manage their ailment so that they can live with the best possible quality of life.

As our population increases rapidly, we are faced with a future of profound problems; one of which is the high numbers of people stricken by chronic life-limiting illnesses. We are feeling the impact of this impending situation and there is a huge need for our society to be taken care of by a solid system of long-term and end-of-life care services. Palliative care is an approach that aims to improve the quality of life in such patients with life-limiting illnesses.

Looking deeper, neuro-palliative care has become highly important because of long-term neurological conditions that have struck patients here in Singapore, such as stroke, dementia, Parkinson’s Disease and related disorders, and Motor Neuron Disease (MND). These are associated with long-term disability, be it cognitive or physical impairment. Despite today’s medical advancements, a cure has not yet been found.

Therefore, palliative care is essential and we need to improve in overall efforts to provide good and affordable care. Most healthcare professionals involved in these patients’ care should be competent in delivering general palliative care while specialist palliative care is indicated for patients with refractory symptoms. This matter will take centre stage at the Neuroscience Nursing Seminar this year on July 8. Organised by the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI), the Seminar is an annual educational event for nurses from partnering institutions to network and discuss the latest developments in neuroscience nursing and foster closer collaborations.

Patients with long-term neurological conditions are often cared for across clinical settings. For example, patients are initially diagnosed by neurologists at acute hospitals, and thereafter followed up. The community team gets increasingly involved in the patients’ care as the disease progresses. Here, nurses play a critical role in helping patients to manage their ailment so that they can live with the best possible quality of life. For those with end-of-life care, nurses make a significant difference in many ways so that patients pass on with dignity. Hence, the theme for the Seminar, ‘Dignified Journey: Palliative Care in Neuroscience Nursing’. This is strongly advocated by Ms Li Wei, the Chairperson of the Seminar and an Advanced Practice Nurse at NNI, "In the current state of medicine and technological advancements, there are no cures for neurodegenerative diseases. Making patients’ lives meaningful and fulfilling is essential. Recognising and supporting the needs of patients are part of palliative care principles. Nurses have the most contact opportunities with patient and their families, and they play crucial roles in patient management. Application of palliative care in neuroscience nursing is at a cutting-edge standard. Hence, we hope this seminar can enrich and empower nurses in the care of neurodegenerative diseases, so as to walk patients and their families through the disease journey in a dignified manner."

Says Dr Ang Kexin, a Consultant from the Department of Neurology at NNI who specialises in Palliative care in neurology, "This is a wonderful platform both for streamlining training for nurses who care for such patients and for nurses to get to know each other, and hopefully aid communication about their shared patients and improve patient care."

In addition to discussing local practices, the Seminar will also see the participation of Dr Jessica McFarlin from the Department of Neurology at Duke University School of Medicine, who will share her experiences with palliative care and related programmes to equip nurses with the necessary skills.