Have you any ideas for how to improve community and health professionals’ access to information and education about palliative care?
If so, Erin Koop, from the CareSearch palliative care knowledge network, would like to hear from you.
How can we improve professional and community understanding about palliative care?
Erin Koop writes:
In a recent article in the Australian Medical Student Journal, Kieran G Allen and Sadid F Khan explore the barriers to the provision of palliative care in Australia.
The third and fourth year undergraduate students at Monash University used a combination of questionnaires and semi-structured interviews to delve into what a variety of stakeholders and health practitioners see as the reasons that the effective provision of palliative care is limited.
The participants were made up mostly of South East Palliative Care community nursing and allied health staff, followed closely by general practitioners and aged care facility carers. The study asked questions that tested respondent knowledge about palliative care as well as narrowing down the major barriers that seem to preclude effective palliative care in their respective workplaces.
Barriers identified included:
• poor understanding of patients’ cultural, language and spiritual issues surrounding death
• lack of advanced care planning in aged care homes (despite regulations requiring it to be discussed)
• inexperience in palliative medication prescription for GPs, and
• legal issues and confusion differentiating palliative interventions from euthanasia.
All of these are valid barriers, but the main problem identified, and the one that I believe is at the core of those listed above, is inadequate education around palliative care.
In fact, the authors sum up:
Interviewees felt the main barriers to the provision of appropriate palliative care relate to a lack of awareness and education. Results from the questionnaires supported this, with many respondents believing knowledge of palliative services was poor amongst the healthcare professions, as well as the general population. This suggests a deficit in education of palliative care in healthcare training as well as the wider community. Improvements in community education programs and direct palliative education for training healthcare professionals were suggested from qualitative data collection to help to address this deficit.
So we have aged care workers, GPs, and community nursing and allied health staff who genuinely desire and endeavour to provide effective palliative care to patients, but are limited by a lack of education and awareness on the subject.
We need to continue to focus on providing current, relevant resources that help professionals who work with palliative patients to educate themselves and their co-workers, patients and their families on the realities of palliative care.
There are some high-quality Australian initiatives providing those resources:
So how do we help to ensure they get into practitioners’ hands and put into use?
We put this question to you, the reader: are you a health professional who knows exactly how to help your colleagues access and use palliative care information?
Are you a patient or carer who would love to make your ideas heard by palliative care leaders?
Leave your comment here and join the discussion.
• CareSearch is a free online resource designed to help those needing relevant and trustworthy information and resources about palliative care. The CareSearch project began in 2004 and has grown to become one of the largest and most trusted palliative care resources available There are special sections devoted entirely to providing relevant, in-depth information to GPs, nurses, patients, families and carers, all free of charge. All content is written and reviewed by professionals working in palliative care and undergoes rigorous quality and currency checks before it is published online. The site receives over 40,000 visits and over 2 million hits each month and is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.