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The views and opinions expressed in our blog series are those of the authors and are not necessarily supported by CareSearch, Flinders University and/or the Australian Government Department of Health.
About a third of Australian nurses work in rural and remote practice and many are sole practitioners working in geographically diverse and challenging areas. This requires nurses to have a diverse range of skills, professional and otherwise, including the need to provide quality palliative care. One of our biggest challenges is in being able to maintain those skills in their environment. Ann Aitken, Acting Director of Nursing and Midwifery at Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Services, discusses how the palliAGEDnurse and palliAGEDgp apps provide nurses and their medical colleagues a way to gain 24/7 offline palliative care information to help them in their practice.
One of the statements we commonly see in research reports and in policy and service documents is a comment about an ageing population. The reality of a demographic change where people are living longer than ever before has been instrumental in driving rethinking around issues such as retirement age, superannuation access, healthy lifestyles and supportive living environments. Living longer does not however mean living forever, and an ageing population means we also need to consider how we support older Australians as they approach death.
There is no doubt that nurses are fundamental to health care. There are over 350,000 nurses currently practising in Australia. They are the largest single health profession in Australia. But more importantly, they are most often the face of care to the person needing care. And this is particularly important to remember when thinking about the care needs of an older person who may be the last stage of their life.
Many older people spend some or all of the last year of their life at home. Some will move to residential aged care or will already be in an aged care facility. Others will live with families or friends. Some may spend time in a hospital. Nearly all will be involved with a GP and with their Practice Nurses. So not only are nurses critical in enabling good care for older Australians coming to the end of their life, they will be providing this care in many different settings.