The majority of allied health professionals work within teams either on a daily basis, or when brought together for the care of a patient. Not all patients require the same team of health professionals to look after them, so the composition of teams may vary. What this means is that communication between health professionals regarding patient care is vital. In a hospital or palliative care unit an allied health professional may be involved in case conferences, education initiatives, peer review, family meetings and ward rounds. Excellent communication is also essential for interdisciplinary support and encouragement. Providing information to colleagues at a clinical handover is an important part of communication. This enables continuity of care and could occur at transfer between facilities or on referral between hospital and private community providers.
Communication pathways may include local allied health professionals providing services in different settings such as rural or remote areas, or those who may be the only allied health professional in their team. Ongoing communication in relation to patient care (such as with community nurses and / or referring hospitals), enables continuity of care and maintains professional communication networks. Professional networking is the responsibility of, and essential for all allied health professionals to gather information, find resources and achieve access to the latest research. It will also provide support and encouragement to all allied health but especially new and sole providers in the palliative care setting.
Different teams may have different understandings of and / or comfort levels about what palliative care can offer the patient and family. It is important to understand this so you are able to identify the key people to communicate with and the best avenues for conveying information. For example, in a private setting, decisions about another team's involvement lie with the consultant. However, in a public setting it may be more of a team decision or under the guidance of the Nurse Unit Manager. In the community, the GP as the primary caregiver may be the key person for liaison. Here too the allied health professional will need to be pro-active in communicating with other allied health, district nurses and family as their visits to the patient may not occur at the same time. Extra effort to communicate may be required.
Any health professional should also consider the need to develop professional and emotional support. A good place to start is Palliative Allied Health groups, both in Australia and on-line, CareSearch, professional bodies and conferences.