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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.
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.
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.
New healthcare research is being produced at an exponential rate and the challenges for clinicians to keep abreast of it are well documented. Perhaps less frequently discussed is the question of what happens once relevant evidence has been identified. How does it move from the page to have a tangible influence on patient care or health system outcomes?
Despite the abundance of research evidence available, we know that it is often slow to reach those that need it, and even slower to be implemented. An oft cited time lag is a staggering 17 years! The implication is that patients may be receiving ineffectual treatments, out of step with best practice recommendation, in the meantime. This must inevitably impact on patient safety, quality improvement processes, and healthcare costs across the sector.
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.