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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.
This is one of the questions that will be addressed in the Dying2Learn MOOC. As a palliative care doctor, it has been wonderful to have the opportunity to start this conversation, and I am looking forward to the interactions with real anticipation.
In developing this section of the MOOC I have tried hard not to assume too much about what participants should think or believe, or to push any particular perspective. Obviously that is a bit difficult for me, as my work for over a decade has been in the smoke and dust of the clinical battlefields where dying patients often end up i.e. acute hospitals. As palliative medicine clinicians we often feel like we are galloping in to rescue people from the hospital system, and (speaking for myself, anyhow) we can sometimes be a bit black and white about things. What I have learned though, over and over again, is that it is not simple for people. Many are unprepared for the decisions they will need to make, and - like BREXIT perhaps!- may not fully understand what they have let themselves in for until it is too late.
Module two takes us from ‘Engaging with Death and Dying’ in week one to ‘Representations of Death and Dying’. This includes an exploration of how death and dying are portrayed across a variety of medium such as art, literature, film and television and how their portrayal impacts on our day-to-day lives.
Initially we look at Death and Dying via Art and History. In history, we find instructions about death and dying dating as far back as the 15th century with the Ars Moriendi (Art of Dying). We also find other publications on death and dying in the 1600’s that were written with the aim of ensuring that if death occurred unexpectedly then you would always be prepared.
The first week of the CareSearch MOOC Dying2Learn is about engaging with Death and Dying. The MOOC will introduce different concepts and prompt the reader to think about things that they had not previously considered or had not wanted to think about at the time. Some of this can be confronting, so we start off by exploring the constructs of death through humour. Our main message at the beginning of the MOOC is – don’t take this too seriously. Have a good laugh and get the conversations started in a safe place. So, for example I have linked to the Dying Matters website (UK) ‘Dying for a Laugh’ where comedians reflect and ultimately consider their own deaths, hoping that their involvement will encourage others to talk more openly and more often about death and other end of life issues.
At CareSearch we acknowledge and respect the Kaurna people, the traditional custodians whose ancestral lands on which CareSearch located.
Naa Marni? This greeting in Kaurna language translates to ‘Are you all good?’
I recall once walking through a university corridor on my way to give a tutorial, and overhearing some students complaining that they couldn't understand why they had to spend so much time in their course on Aboriginal Health. I was quite shocked by this, because to me the reason was obvious – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people die at least 10 years earlier than non-indigenous Australians. How had they missed this vital point?
One of the key goals of the Close the Gap campaign for Indigenous health equality is to reduce the gap in life expectancy and healthcare access between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the non-indigenous Australian population.
As a course coordinator of the palliative care courses at Flinders University I have seen our post graduate student population change over time. Ten years ago, students were primarily health professionals who worked in specialist palliative care services. These students worked to expand and update their knowledge, sharpen their skills and improve their own professional capacity to deliver palliative care.
Today Flinders’ students still work to grow, change and develop, but the student profile is changing. We work with students who are employed across a range of health services including, aged care, emergency departments, pain clinics, medical wards, adult and neonatal intensive care units, and respiratory wards. These professionals are proactively seeking to expand their skills to meet the needs of the growing number of Australians (up to 52%) with a life-limiting illness and who die in acute hospitals.