Multidisciplinary Care

Palliative care is often discussed in terms of holistic care, and of a patient and family-centred approach. What differentiates palliative care from a traditional medical model is that the patients, family and carers are seen as equal members of the palliative care team.

This care is best delivered by a multidisciplinary team who can support patients and families who may have physical, functional, emotional, psychological, social and spiritual care needs.

It has been identified that multidisciplinary teams are effective for the management of palliative care patients, but that barriers exist. These relate to communication, roles, team structure and lack of clarity in psychosocial care. [1] It is important that these issues are identified and addressed to ensure optimal care.

Many teams do not have a full range of allied health skills such as dietetics or speech pathology. In budgetary terms, these are often not considered essential where referral to local generalist professionals is required. Further, the concept of a multidisciplinary team cannot always be fully realised in rural and remote areas. Role boundaries need to be blurred or extended in order to meet patient needs with the available resources. Incidences of transdisciplinary practice and extended scope of practice is common.

NB: Interdisciplinary is working within your own role but having an awareness of the role of others.

Transdiciplinary is doing the role of another (eg, an OT walking a patient).

  1. O'Connor M, Fisher C, Guilfoyle A. Interdisciplinary teams in palliative care: a critical reflection. Int J Palliat Nurs. 2006 Mar;12(3):132-7.

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  • The Palliative Care Curriculum for Undergraduates (PCC4U) program has a Learning Module on Multidisciplinary care
  • End-of-life Essentials is written with a multi-disciplinary perspective that includes allied health. Register and check out any of the 10 modules.

Last updated 18 March 2019