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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.
Aileen Collier is a lecturer in Palliative and Supportive Services, Flinders University. Her research sits at the interface of social science and health research and is focused on human agency and safety and quality of palliative care. She also teaches in the Flinders University post-graduate program.
What advice can I offer you about nursing, research and improving health care? Nurses, as the backbone of our health services, need to be highly responsive to direct patient care needs. If improvements in palliative care are to be realised however, we also need to enact what colleagues Jane Phillips and Meera Agar have recently described as “exemplary leadership”. Our health care systems are complex, in constant flux and driven by efficiency and cost effectiveness. We need to take an active role in policy development as well as critically adapting ‘top-down’ policy and evidence-based initiatives within local settings. In this environment, nurses simply cannot afford not to be able to make sense of research findings.
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.
In 2013, Canalys (1) estimated there were over 1,600,000 apps available in the two largest online app stores, iTunes and Google Play, and the number of platform-based, service carrier or manufacturer-operated online stores has increased to over 70 worldwide in the last two years (2). With over 1.2 billion people now accessing mobile applications (3), the role of the app has become multidimensional, with users expecting to discover an app to enhance every part of their life, for both work and play. For healthcare professionals (HCPs) working in palliative care, searching, evaluating, identifying, and downloading relevant apps from the proverbial sea of applications is a time-consuming pastime which often yields little to no results.
How much does palliative care cost? What are the costs for the patients and families? What are the most cost-effective ways to provide a palliative care service? Information about the costs of care is of perennial interest – not only to those who deliver it and fund it, but also to those who receive it. A thorough investigation of this information can be hard to do, because it is located in many different areas: it is not just found in scholarly databases but is also incorporated in websites, conference papers, blog posts, and other grey literature areas.
I am excited to be part of a project team at CareSearch that are developing a ‘massive open online course’ (MOOC) on death and dying. MOOCs are freely-available short online courses that anyone can participate in. Traditionally they have been used in universities to deliver education out of the classroom, but there has been a surge in their popularity in that they can be used to not only create social networks and engage participants, but impart important messages, provide resources, and facilitate research opportunities. The aim of our MOOC is to build community awareness of palliative care and death as a normal process, and our approach to the MOOC will be in a socio-cultural context (rather than a palliative care context); so for example, the social rather than biological death as seen in dementia. The MOOC will provide a never-before-seen opportunity to watch a community-driven approach to death and dying.