Rachel Sabolish, a palliative care nurse at AdventHealth Porter in Colorado, received the 2023 Magnet Nurse of the Year Award for Structural Empowerment at the recent National Magnet Conference in Chicago. The award recognized her contributions to improving palliative care delivery, end-of-life decision-making, nurse and community teaching, empowering nurses and interprofessional collaboration.
The Magnet Recognition Program, according to the American Nurses Association, designates organizations worldwide where nursing leaders successfully align their nursing strategic goals to improve patient outcomes.
When Sabolish first began working in palliative care (do we know when?), she had no intention of creating programs and procedures. But she said, after practicing and seeing opportunities for improvement, she felt called to drive and influence changes so patients could receive the best and safest care possible – body, mind and spirit. Palliative care aims to improve the quality of life for patients who have a serious or life-threatening illness.
Sabolish’s passion for improving how end-of-life care is delivered has driven her to create multiple palliative care service delivery models and programs that are sought after nationally and internationally. Some examples:
During the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sabolish identified a need for a standardized process in which critically ill and rapidly declining patients without previously completed end-of-life wishes would be able to make care decisions before it was too late. She revolutionized how end-of-life decision-making was carried out during the pandemic, creating a process that continues to be used by palliative care nurses.
"As a nurse practitioner, it is important to me to work with and empower nurses at all levels of their career to provide evidence-based care and reduce human suffering."
When sudden lifesaving measures are needed, there are different interventions that can be taken. In 2022, Sabolish’s sensitive approach to emergency response work improved communication among care providers. With her ICU colleagues, she developed criteria and definitions for care team resuscitation options. Code response categories were standardized, became well-defined, and were reduced from 14 options to 3.
Sabolish was instrumental in implementing a new process for providing end-of-life education focused on symptom management to nurses caring for dying patients and their loved ones. The palliative care team developed a menu for patients so they could easily understand the options and have a say in the level of lifesaving measures they wanted at the end of their lives, promoting patient comfort as well as allowing caregivers to practice autonomously at the top of their licenses. Other systems across the nation have sought this program and curriculum.
“As a nurse practitioner, it is important to me to work with and empower nurses at all levels of their career to provide evidence-based care and reduce human suffering,” Sabolish said. “I wouldn’t be on this stage without support from the AdventHealth Porter nurses,” she added, whose “dedication to achieving the best outcomes for our patients is an inspiration every day.”