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“If I had my life to live over” -- Forgiveness at Life's End

  • Compassion at End of Life Artwork depicting scenes common to end of life nursing experience. Image Credit: End of Life Nursing Education Project (ELNEC)

  • Compassion at End of Life Artwork depicting scenes common to end of life nursing experience. Image Credit: End of Life Nursing Education Project (ELNEC)

  • Compassion at End of Life Artwork depicting scenes common to end of life nursing experience. Image Credit: End of Life Nursing Education Project (ELNEC)

  • Compassion at End of Life Artwork depicting scenes common to end of life nursing experience. Image Credit: End of Life Nursing Education Project (ELNEC)

“If I had my life to live over” -- Forgiveness at Life's End

As the professionals most frequently at the bedside in hospice and palliative care programs, it is nurses who bear witness to their patients inhabiting this challenging and meaningful life assessment. And as patients and their loved ones navigate the dying process and review their lives together, the topic of forgiveness is often near, sometimes articulated and resolved and other times a silent struggle.

An oncology nurse with more than 35 years of experience, Dr. Betty Ferrell is well aware of this phenomenon. With clinical and research expertise in pain management, quality of life, and palliative care, Ferrell is committed to assisting nurses and other caregivers to become even more proficient when it comes to this depth of care and guidance.

“Many health care professionals are poorly equipped to address issues of forgiveness that often arise at end of life,” says Ferrell. “In offering education directed at this topic specifically, we can make a profound difference in the quality of the dying process.”

Starting with baseline data gathering, Ferrell is collecting written narratives and stories from more than 200 nurses in a qualitative study of end-of-life requests for forgiveness as told at the bedside to nurses by patients and their loved ones.

From this, she, along with a team of external research consultants, will glean best practices in order to deepen skills in helping end-of-life patients navigate the forgiveness process. 

Read the related blog post, "Forgiveness as a Task at End of Life."

This is a project of the Fetzer Advisory Council on Health Professions.