Managing Breathlessness at End of Life

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Lecture Overview

Breathlessness (dyspnoea) is an automatic increase in respiration rate in response to a reduction in the levels of oxygen. At the end of life, breathlessness can be an incredibly distressing and debilitating symptom. In this quick update, palliative care nurse practitioner Karen Gower provides an overview of dyspnoea in end-of-life care, including a case study.


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Karen Gower View profile
Karen Gower was the clinical nurse manager of the Wesley Palliative Care Service from 2003 to 2013, having worked in oncology since 1989. In 2011, she completed a master of nursing science (nurse practitioner). In 2013, Karen joined Blue Care, Metro North Community Service, as the first community nurse practitioner for Blue Care. She was fortunate to be part of a project funded through the department of health and ageing to ascertain if having a nurse practitioner working with the community domiciliary service would support palliative clients and their families to care for their family member at home. These clients were, generally, in the last three months of life due to a life-limiting illness. Working with the client’s GP and/or a specialist palliative care service at their treating hospital as part of an integrated service showed significant improvement in service provision and the position was supported to continue across Metro North once the project finished in 2015. In 2015, Blue Care were fortunate to win a Metro North Queensland Health tender to provide community palliative care funded by Queensland Health. Family satisfaction surveys showed families felt supported to continue caring for their loved one at home and grateful to be able to fulfil their family members wish to remain at home. In 2017, Karen joined the Metro South Palliative Care Service Queensland Health, working part-time to deliver palliative care in the community. In 2019, she finished working with Blue Care and is enjoying working part-time at Metro South. It has been a privilege to journey with these clients and their families, enabling them to remain in their place of choice – whether that be in their own home or in hospital.
CPD time15m
First Published11 July 2022
Updated11 July 2022
11 July 2025
Learning Tools
Chronic Illness
Clinical Assessment
Nurse Practitioners