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Patients’ symptoms cannot be managed by medication alone
  1. Vicky Robinson, Consultant Nurse
  1. St Christopher’s Hospice, London

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What does a ‘black box’ have to do with end-of-life care? The term ‘black box’ refers to a collection of different recording devices used in transportation, for example, the flight data and cockpit voice recorder in aircraft. The recovery of the black box is considered to be second only in importance to the recovery of bodies following a fatal air crash. Black box is also a term used in physics and electronics to describe a mechanism in which the input and expected outputs are well understood while its internal operations are completely unknown.

With regard to health care, all nurses know the difference between a sign and a symptom. A sign is something that can be observed by an onlooker or through physical examination. A symptom is something that a patient experiences and reports. With regard to symptom assessment, …

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