A Passion for Palliative Care: Christina McDaniel, DNP ’21, R.N.

Jennifer A. Turner
October 27, 2022
Christina McDaniel, DNP, R.N.
Christina McDaniel, DNP, R.N.

In honor of November being National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, MUSC Health Palliative Care Program Manager Christina McDaniel, DNP, R.N., offers an inside look at her passion for what has become her life’s calling.

Christina McDaniel, DNP, R.N., Class of 2021
MUSC Health Palliative Care Program Manager
MUSC College of Nursing adjunct faculty

How did you first become introduced to palliative care? What drew you to the field?

I think I was drawn to this care focus throughout my career as a nurse but didn’t have a formal name for that focus until I started working for Hands of Hope (HOH). Hands of Hope is South Carolina’s only dedicated pediatric hospice and palliative provider and was in its infancy when I started as a pediatric resource nurse with them. I got to help start their program, and it ignited the passion that I have now for this patient population. When I was young, I wanted to be a pediatrician, but my aunt was a nurse, and I loved to hear the way she talked about the care she provided her patients. She was the reason that I changed my course from medicine to nursing.

Why did you choose to make palliative care the focus of your nursing practice and research?

I saw what a difference that supportive services, like hospice and palliative care, made in the lives of patients and families. I knew it was my passion to make sure that access to that care was widespread. I quickly found that the lack of knowledge and understanding around hospice and palliative care was not just in the patients/families that I served but also in other providers, legislators and individuals who impacted health care in other settings. I found that knowledge was power, and I wanted to make sure to reach as many people as I could to increase the awareness of what these services provided at the most vulnerable times in a patient’s trajectory.

In what roles have you worked?

I started my career as a neonatal intensive care nurse, then moving on to clinical coordination for a pediatric neurosurgery practice. From there I joined Hands of Hope as a pediatric resource nurse and palliative care program coordinator. I then moved into a leadership role as a Director of Operations for a multi-state hospice company. I have also served as faculty in the MUSC College of Nursing (and still hold an affiliate faculty position) and now serve as program manager for the Palliative Care Program at MUSC.

How did your graduate experience at MUSC College of Nursing help shape your career?

My DNP (Nurse Executive Leadership and Innovation specialty track) brought together the years of practice and education in order to focus on the impact that leadership and innovation can have in order to see real change in practice and policy. I feel like the skills that I developed throughout my doctoral studies truly prepared me to be a change agent not only for patients and families but also for providers in health care. That education gave me the confidence to sit at the “table” and know that my voice mattered and could make a difference.

What do you find most fulfilling about your current role at MUSC?

As the Program Manager for Palliative Care, I feel like I am able to bring my years of clinical and leadership experience together to serve and advocate for the members of the palliative care team. It is such a unique and rewarding experience to be on the operational side of practice while also being keenly aware of what our providers are doing and going through day to day. The most fulfilling part of my job is being their advocate and a strong voice for them and their practice.

As a DNP-prepared nurse, what are your biggest motivators?

My research is focused on provider well-being and the systems impact on that well-being. My biggest motivation comes from my years of practice and then my time with undergraduate students at the College of Nursing. I felt what it was like to be a provider and then got a front row seat to these new nurses encountering the challenges of coming into practice. Just as I spent years in practice with the goal of improving the quality of life for patients and families, I now want to carry that over into improving the quality of life of those caring for those patients and families.

What brings you joy?

Personally, my joy comes from seeing my girls blossom into adults and have their own success. Professionally, my joy comes from seeing how knowledge is a change agent in moving palliative care forward as a respected and sought-after level of care. Equally my joy comes from seeing my colleagues be fulfilled and successful, while also sustainable, in their practice because of the increasing importance placed on provider well-being.

What is your favorite thing about working at MUSC?

The learning! We are continuously striving to use evidence and produce evidence to make health care a better place for patients, families and providers.

Fun fact:

I love to sing karaoke and am an obsessed fur momma; also married to my high school sweetheart who is the head football coach at the high school we both graduated from here in Charleston.