Palliative care is focused on relieving people's symptoms while they battle a life-threatening illness. A lot of times, palliative care and hospice (aka controlling pain and symptoms so the person can be alert and aware for as long as possible) are often used interchangeably. And they are super similar. Long story short, palliative care is the end of life care.
At my hospital, our palliative care unit is 7 beds and is reserved for anyone who, for whatever reason, has decided that their fight with their illness is over. That they are going to spend their remaining days in comfort, instead of prolonging the inevitable. There's a lot of medical stuff that goes into these decisions, that aren't really important right now. Because what is important, is that every single person who wants to be involved in health care in any way should have to work in palliative care.
The main thing to know about palliative care is that most of it is focused on pain management. And for a lot of people, it looks a lot of different ways. Some people do really well with pills and a swig of water at the end of life. Others do not, and have IV infusions. But proper pain management, in the end, is the difference between dying comfortably, without pain, and having the already scary experience be excruciating. Palliative care is a lot different too since it's focused on that person being comfortable, relaxed, and ready to move into the next phase.
A lot of doctors and future doctors find palliative depressing, and a waste of time. Why focus on people who, regardless of how hard you try, are going to die anyway? Yeah, watching people you take care of every shift decline and eventually pass on really sucks and definitely involves some crying in the bathroom and/or your car at the end of your shift, what you do for those patients is so important.
To truly understand how to make people's lives better, you have to understand how to take care of them when their lives are ending. This is a completely different ballgame. No longer are you rushing blood tests or trying to diagnose and solve the problem, and no longer do you get to be the hero who saves the day with a weird niche diagnosis. Okay, maybe I've been watching too much House, but you get the idea.
This is the most important gift you can give someone when you have RN or MD behind your name, or hell, even PCT like I do. You are choosing to give people the gift of dignity and comfort as their incredible lives end, and in some cases, you are the person who makes sure that they aren't alone.
Does it suck sometimes? Hell yeah, it does. Will people look at you like you're a sadist and hate yourself when you tell them you work in palliative care? Yup, almost every time. Is every single moment worth it? Yeah, absolutely.
Okay, maybe not every single moment.