Discovering Her Calling as a Palliative Care Provider

Palliative care providers improve the quality of life for patients and their families by providing relief from symptoms and stress accompanying serious illnesses. Its ultimate goal is to help patients feel better during a long or potentially terminal illness by preventing or managing symptoms and treatment side effects. While hospice care begins when a patient’s condition is deemed terminal, palliative care begins as early as the time of diagnosis, before the disease’s severity has been determined. This specialized care treats the whole person, and it focuses on disease processes and the emotional and spiritual aspects of patients’ lives.

Palliative care is where Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) alumna Nicole Schroeder (’15) found her calling, and she dedicates her life to providing this unique type of care. Before discovering her health care specialty, Schroeder earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree in 2011 from Allen College in Waterloo, Iowa. She worked on a medical surgical unit while earning her MSN, and she had two job options to choose from following graduation: Family Nurse Practitioner or Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner. Inspired by her aunt who was a nurse and worked in palliative care for many years, she chose the latter.

Schroeder joined UnityPoint Palliative Medicine as a Nurse Practitioner in 2015, and she currently works from her Loring Hospital office in Sac City, Iowa. There, she provides palliative care to nearly 150 UnityPoint patients alongside a registered nurse and social worker.

She views palliative care as a unique way to assist people with chronic health problems. Schroeder collaborates with patients to set quality care goals, ensures they receive proper care and supports them in their transition to end of life care. One of the most satisfying parts of her job is watching her patients find peace with their symptoms as they understand the full scope of their diagnosis and future.

A recent patient interaction affirmed the extraordinary importance of her health care calling. Her patient was born and lived his entire life in his childhood home. After receiving his cancer diagnosis, he shared with Schroeder his desire to remain in his home until his life ended. When his palliative care transitioned into hospice, Schroeder worked with providers to establish a plan that respected her patient’s wishes, ensuring he received his desired end-of-life care.

Schroeder’s palliative care role is a critical component to providing stability for others in a vulnerable season of life. She credits her Clarkson College education with giving her the ability to assess and communicate well with her patients. Thanks to her education, she easily transitioned from her role as a medical surgical nurse to a palliative care nurse p ractitioner that is empowered to fulfill her calling to help others.