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For seriously unwell kids, a palliative care nurse can be key—if the position can be filled

Nurses like Lucy, who provide skilled and compassionate care, can make a huge difference in the lives of people in need of medical support and their families. But the pandemic has exacerbated a preexisting nursing shortage, leaving too many patients without the attention they deserve.
And for children with severe and life-limiting conditions, staffing shortages are especially acute. 

A little over 10% of National Health System nursing positions in England overall are unfilled, but that number jumps to 18% for nursing positions to care for children who are seriously unwell.

Lucy, who works for UK nonprofit Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice providing pediatric palliative care, was hired through grant support from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) that aims to help ensure that these children can get the careful, skilled attention they need. Her role contributes to better quality of life for hundreds of young people from North and Central London, helping improve physical health and mental wellbeing, including by reducing social isolation.

Noah’s Ark serves children both in their homes and at The Ark, a hospice center north of London that integrates care and accommodation with its setting in a nature preserve to create a comfortable environment that helps spark moments of joy.

Lucy’s position includes not only working with the most medically vulnerable children among the population Noah’s Ark serves, but also training additional specialist caregivers, multiplying the reach of her expertise.

One of SNF’s primary areas of focus in its ongoing efforts to help expand access to quality health care for people in Greece and around the world centers on empowering medical professionals—by giving them the tool they need to do their job to the fullest, by recognizing their extraordinary efforts in the pandemic, and by listening to their perspectives.

And the need for skilled staff to provide medical care to young people is global. In Burkina Faso, confronting a similarly pressing shortage of skilled nursery staff, nonprofit Mission Enfance, with support from SNF, created a training center for nursery assistants, the first of its kind in the country.

Palliative care, including for children, has also been an important part of SNF’s grantmaking over the years, including support for the SNF Fellowship in Pediatric Palliative Care at Johns Hopkins University, for the Center to Advance Palliative Care, and for efforts to make the approach more widely available in Greece.

And the grant to Noah’s Ark is one of a number that have looked to support the physical and mental wellbeing of children in the UK, from Coram to Great Ormond Street Hospital.