Whenever I take care of a patient with liver failure I am reminded of just how vital this organ is and how much I really really don’t ever want to get liver failure. It is not pretty…at all. In some cases, it is chronic as in people suffering from cirrhosis due to hepatitis or alcohol use. In other cases it’s brought on acutely.
Whatever the cause it’s an absolutely terrible disease and not a good way to go. In fact, it’s pretty darn awful. These patients suffer horribly throughout the course of the disease and especially so at the end…I guarantee that you will remember your first liver failure patient forever. They are pathophysiologically complex and emotionally devastating all at once. The perfect combination to leave you feeling overwhelmed and absolutely drained…welcome to nursing!
To help out, I’ve created a LATTE reference sheet (Liver LATTE) that provides an overview of nursing care. Looking back, I left out one key component…leave your judgment at the door. Many of these patients are in liver failure because of lifestyle choices they made. Those issues are outside of our understanding and our control. Care for the patient as they are at that moment: vulnerable, sick, frightened, in pain, and maybe even alone. Be a source of comfort in what may be their final hours, it very well could be the only kindness they’ve felt in a very very long time.
And, as always, be safe out there.