Becoming an RPN is like getting a passport to work in a wide range of roles throughout the health care system here in Ontario. RPNs provide excellent, knowledge-based care in hospitals, doctor’s offices, family health care teams, public health units, long-term care homes, hospices…the list goes on. But over the past several years, however, I have been hearing more questions from RPNs interested in finding out more about working in a specialty area that is very close to my heart and that is palliative care.

I consider myself truly fortunate to have had the opportunity to work in palliative care for many years now. It’s a part of the nursing world that doesn’t get a significant amount of attention but in my humble opinion, palliative care is an excellent area to work in as an RPN. Even if you don’t specialize in this area, it’s worth noting that the vast majority of direct practice nursing roles in this province will use palliative care principles at some point in their practice.

Helping terminally ill patients and their families enjoy a better quality of life. That’s the goal for everyone working in palliative care. RPNs are part of a larger team of colleagues and everyone works together, using their training and skills to help minimize patients’ anxiety and discomfort as they prepare for death.

Each year, more and more RPNs are being utilized in palliative care, especially in the area of community care. It’s also worth noting that are significant opportunities for professional development and career enhancement. There are excellent courses you can take to further enhance your skills, such as LEAP (Learning Essential Approaches to Palliative and End-of-Life Care), a two-day interactive course based on Canadian realities and current best evidence.

Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) has also been getting more attention these past few years and many RPNs do take part in this process if they happen to work at an organization that provides medical assistance in dying. And while we believe medical assistance in dying should never take away from excellent palliative care, we are able to direct nurses to the appropriate resources and organizations to further your knowledge in this area.

I can tell you firsthand that palliative care is an important and very rewarding segment of the health care system. If you’re interested in learning more, there’s a great deal of helpful information about palliative care on the RPNAO website. I would also encourage you to reach out to anyone you know who works in this area to learn more about their career experiences. And if you’d like to ask me anything about my experience in palliative care or are interested in joining RPNAO’s Palliative Care Special Interest Group (PCSIG), I encourage you to get in touch with me at  


Maxwell Hamlyn
President, BOD, RPNAO


Category: Messages from the PresidentDate: Friday, June 15, 2018