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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.
“Palliative care is everyone’s business”
This was the theme of Palliative Care Australia’s advocacy in 2013. While this message aimed primarily to promote understanding at the wider community level, it is important for all health care providers to recognise the role they play in palliative care. All health disciplines, in specialist and non-specialist roles, in acute, community and aged care settings, cross paths with people affected by life-limiting illnesses. To provide care reflecting the values and principles of palliative care, the health workforce needs to be appropriately prepared and updated through postgraduate learning, professional experience, and ongoing professional development.
With 52% of Australians dying in acute hospitals, end-of-life care is essential knowledge for health care professionals.
However, health care professionals working in acute hospitals can find themselves challenged by patients with end-of-life care needs. Doctors, nurses and allied health professionals can be in a situation where they do not know how to best respond to a patient with end-of-life needs. Appropriate end-of-life interventions can be missed.
I’ve always been interested in how technology is evolving and how it is affecting our personal and our working worlds. Technology has changed and is continuing to change how we access information, how we communicate, what we create and what we leave behind. So preparing a module on digital dying for our MOOC, Dying2Learn, gave me a wonderful opportunity to explore a number of different aspects of death and dying that have been influenced or changed by digital technologies.
Some things are immediately obvious. Digital technologies have changed much of health and there are now amazing avenues for assessment, treatment and research that were not available a generation ago. If you are interested in the big picture approach to digital health, I’d suggest you take a look at Ste Davies’ presentation 10 digital health trends for the next 20 years or check out The Medical Futurist, who likes to pose grand challenges for the digital world and transforming health.
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.
Health professionals can find it difficult to manage the growing evidence relevant to the care of patients with palliative care needs. While CareSearch provides access to a wide variety of palliative care evidence and resources, knowing which one to use can be tricky. Recognising when it might be worthwhile looking for additional evidence is also important. These were the original reasons why we introduced My Learning, a web-based learning initiative, in 2012. Educational modules in My Learning introduced health professionals to resources in CareSearch and showed how they could help in clinical care and decision making. Since then, each month, around 100 people complete the learning modules.