Nurses providing palliative care

This section provides information for those currently working as palliative care nurses, or for those who have an interest in working in palliative care. The aim of palliative care is to help people live their life comfortably and as fully as possible by supporting their physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. This broad approach to care is often referred to as a holistic care.

Caring for someone with a life limiting illness can be found in almost all areas of health care. Nurses who work across the health system can find themselves in clinical situations where palliative care knowledge is needed, even if they are not ‘specialist’ nurses. This kind of palliative approach to nursing care is delivered everywhere that patients can be found, such as in community care, surgical units, residential aged care facilities and emergency departments. 

You may wish to find out more about the nursing care of patients for whom active treatment is no longer of benefit or who have life limiting illnesses. Nurse-led models of palliative care include symptom management, patient and carer education, goals of care discussions, and care coordination. The essential role of nurses in achieving quality palliative care for all Australians has been addressed in a review by the Australian College of Nursing (422kb pdf).

About palliative care Unit 1: The origins of palliative care

Video from Palliative Care NSW

Working in Specialist Palliative Care

Nurses working in specialist palliative care will cover many areas at many levels and have many different responsibilities. They will be working in a variety of settings and geographical locations. Some nurses working in palliative care work alone and some work in specialist palliative care teams.

A defining feature of palliative care is its highly interdisciplinary nature. Palliative care nurses may intersect with other specialties such as oncology, aged care and chronic disease. Palliative care nurses will also work alongside many generalist health professionals to support the person and their family including GPs, social workers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, pastoral care and spiritual caregivers. The role of the specialist palliative care nurse in this setting is to educate, empower and validate the generalist team through the provision of quality palliative care. [1] Competencies across five interrelated domains have been described for Australian specialist palliative care nurses: [2]

  • therapeutic relationships
  • complex supportive care
  • collaborative practice
  • leadership
  • improving practice.

Qualification in palliative care

If you are looking to gain qualification as a palliative care nurse, CareSearch has information on Formal Qualifications at both post-graduate and undergraduate stages of learning.

If you are looking to develop skills and understanding in palliative care, CareSearch has details on Short Courses and Workshops and information about eLearning opportunities including many that can be completed as part of CPD.

This information was drawn from the following resources:

  1. Gott, M, Seymour J, Ingleton C, Gardiner C, Bellamy G. 'That's part of everybody's job': the perspectives of health care staff in England and New Zealand on the meaning and remit of palliative care. Palliat Med. 2012 Apr;26:232-41. Epub 2011 Jun 15.
  2. Canning D, Yates P, Rosenberg JP. Competency Standards for specialist palliative care nursing practice (193kb pdf). Brisbane, QLD: Queensland University of Technology; 2005.

Last updated 20 August 2021