Barbara Reville


Barbara Reville (center) with NP's Jonathan Jehle (left) and Hillary McGuire (right)

Q&A with Barbara Reville, DNP, ANP-BC, ACHPN

April 10th, 2020

Barbara Reville is Nursing Director of Adult Palliative Care at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women's Hospital, and course director of Art & Science of Palliative Nursing.

Why did you decide to work in palliative care?

As an oncology nurse I administered chemotherapy infusions and taught patients about their disease and treatment plan. Later, as an oncology nurse practitioner, I worked to manage the medical aspects of oncology care and treat symptoms. In both nursing roles, I was motivated to help patients feel and function optimally so treatments could proceed, and life could be as normal as possible. I provided support and witness to folks during some of the scariest times in their lives. When I heard about a position in palliative care, I seized an opportunity to deepen my expertise in symptom management and supportive care using a team approach to treat the whole patient. For me, palliative care is the embodiment of nursing. 

What’s your favorite part of your job?

As a very seasoned nurse practitioner, with many years behind me, I enjoy giving back to younger nurses as my mentors helped me build my career.  It is not entirely altruistic as seeing nurses and fellows grow into their palliative care “shoes” is the most rewarding part of my job.  And it is not one-way either, as these learners teach me so much!

Are there any recent publications or projects that you'd like to highlight?

I am trained as a docent - a museum teacher. In our palliative care fellowship, I have led our fellows and faculty through the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in observational exercises to identify and interpret visual elements and share different perspectives. Leaving the hospital and work milieu and sharing about the connection between artworks and each fellow’s path to palliative care fellowship is one of my most meaningful teaching experiences. I am very excited to be a co-author on a recent publication in the Journal of Palliative Medicine about museum-based education for palliative care trainees. My fellowship colleagues and I pooled our data with several other fellowships about the benefits of this pedagogy. Art restores me. I am grateful I have found a way to marry my work and passion in this endeavor.

What is the most helpful advice you have received?

A wonderful aphorism – ‘perfect is the enemy of the very good’.  That is, don’t fuss too much to get a piece of writing, a presentation, or decision flawless.  Forgive yourself and know we learn best from our mistakes. 

If you were stuck on a deserted island, what music, movies or other entertainment would you bring?

My trunk would include a stack of books including all Jane Austen’s novels and all the classics I have been waiting to read but haven’t had time.  Music of all sorts would play constantly, R & B, opera, Broadway, all of it; and please, let me have a puppy!

Learn more about Barbara