Managing diverse care needs 

Palliative care is often discussed in terms of holistic care, and of a patient and family-centred approach. Interdisciplinary team build on each other's expertise to achieve common, shared goals in working with patients, carers and families.

Multidisciplinary care

Multidisciplinary teams can support palliative care patients who may have physical, functional, emotional, psychological, social and spiritual care needs and their families and carers. While multidisciplinary teams are effective for the management of palliative care patients, barriers do exist. These relate to communication, roles, team structure and lack of clarity in psychosocial care [1] and it is important that these issues are identified and addressed to ensure optimal care.

Many teams do not have a full range of allied health skills such as dietetics or speech pathology. In budgetary terms, these are often not considered essential where referral to local generalist professionals is required. The concept of a multidisciplinary team cannot always be fully realised in rural and remote areas. Team members may work within and between care disciplines. Role boundaries may need to be blurred or extended in order to meet patient needs with the available resources. Incidences of transdisciplinary practice and extended scope of practice is common.

NB: Interdisciplinary is working within your own role but having an awareness of the role of others. Transdisciplinary is doing the role of another (e.g. an OT walking a patient)].

  1. O'Connor M, Fisher C, Guilfoyle A. Interdisciplinary teams in palliative care: a critical reflection. Int J Palliat Nurs. 2006 Mar;12(3):132-7.

Last updated 03 September 2021