Although rapidly gaining clinical momentum and public acceptance, palliative care as a healthcare field is still in its infancy. Indeed, it has only been recognised as a medical specialty for about twenty years. In order to meet the public’s increasing demand for palliative care service provision, especially in community and residential aged care settings, we need to build the capacity of clinicians (nurses, doctors, allied health and others) to be better able to provide quality palliative care for all the Australians who need it. The best way to build that capacity is through education.
Education is pivotal to any discipline and palliative care is no exception. Apart from increasing the palliative care knowledge base of the person who undertakes the education, palliative care education has many other desirable flow-on effects: it contributes to professional development overall, it provides a basis for service improvement when people take their learnings back to their workplace, and importantly it contributes to culture change about attitudes to, and beliefs about, palliative care. These are some of the ways that palliative care education builds clinical capacity and progresses the field of palliative care.
But which palliative care education is best? Where and how should we get/deliver it? Can we be sure that the education we commit to, or deliver, is the best?
Clinicians have different preferred modalities for education. Some like to read, some like to watch, some like to do, some like to be lectured to, and others like a mixed approach. All these options are currently available in different palliative care resources for those who wish to make use of them. The most important issue, in my opinion, is that the educational content is evidence-based, contemporary and easy for the person, for whom the education is intended, to understand. Enter CareSearch!
For over ten years CareSearch, as a part of the National Palliative Care Programme, has provided an online trustworthy source of high-quality palliative care information and education. It can be a single “go to” resource for busy clinicians to either directly gain the education they are seeking or to find where that education is available.
As a palliative care physician, I am often asked to provide palliative care education for a range of clinicians and I often refer to CareSearch for educational materials. Palliative care is complex: it is multidisciplinary care, involving a range of skills and applicable to a plethora of advanced physiological illnesses including end-organ failure (e.g. cardiac, respiratory, renal and brain) and cancer, and can be delivered in any care environment. It involves a need to learn about management of physical symptoms, psychosocial care, support for families and carers, and bereavement care. It demands the acquisition of high-level communication skills. This means that education can become very content heavy. Rather than trying to cover screeds of palliative care content, I prefer to focus upon a proactive end-of-life care framework approach to palliative care.
This end-of-life care framework approach helps guide the clinician to the content that they may require for the individual for whom they are caring, within the context of that person’s life. Some of the components of such a framework approach include: knowing when to commence end-of-life care, delivery of proactive, person-centred care, frequent conversations concerning advance care planning and documentation of patient-centred medical goals of treatment plans, how to deliver comfort terminal care, and effective communication with other healthcare professionals involved in the person’s care. All aspects of this end-of-life care framework approach can be found within the CareSearch web-page.
In summary, in my opinion, one of the best ways to increase capacity in palliative care is through education. Specialist palliative care clinicians can provide education to other clinicians using contemporary, evidence-based information pitched at a level appropriate to the target clinicians. Links to examples of such education are provided below:
Professor Liz Reymond MBBS(Hons), PhD, FRACGP, FAChPM, Deputy Director, Metro South Palliative Care Service, Director, Brisbane South Palliative Care Collaborative
To find other education and training options in palliative care visit the CareSearch Education section and for palliative care education, training and learning opportunities that can support people working in aged care and primary care visit the palliAGED Training and Education section.