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The privilege of end of life care

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The privilege of end of life care

When Loretta Williams and Emilie Petrowski were asked what drew them to palliative care nursing, both said it is a privilege to be involved in such an important time in someone’s life.  

“Ensuring our patients are comfortable while they are dying is our main goal but we also support their family in providing information that may alleviate their fears of the unknown,” Loretta said. 

This week is Palliative Care Week, an opportunity to highlight the important role palliative care teams play in end-of-life care. The theme this year is ‘people at the heart of quality palliative care’, and the clinicians working in those teams at Western Health truly show the heart they have for their job. 

Emilie said there is a misconception about working in palliative care, that it is a distressing or sad field of nursing.  

“I often hear from others ‘oh I could never do that work’, but my experience and my answer to these comments is always the same. Yes, it can be sad, and it can be distressing BUT more often, working in palliative care is a privilege, and extremely rewarding.” 

Loretta said palliative care is not just about death and dying. A big part of their role is also helping patients to live a comfortable and full life, while living with a terminal diagnosis. This includes educating patients and their families on how to continue their symptom management after they are discharged from hospital. Good discharge planning ensures patients with palliative care needs are well supported at home and working closely with the community palliative care services. 

Emilie works in the Community Palliative Care team based at Bacchus Marsh, helping patients have a good quality of life with the time they have left and helping to facilitate a good death. 

“I build a rapport with my patients and their key people during one of the hardest times of a person’s life. We are able to facilitate meaningful conversations to learn people’s fears and needs when faced with their mortality and can assist to manage these things. 

“I believe we are making a valuable difference to our patients. This is not only exceptionally fulfilling for us as clinicians but also extremely helpful in preparing key people and loved ones in their grieving process once a person has died,” Emilie said. 

Western Health has a range of palliative care services for patients and their families: 

  • Working out of Bacchus Marsh, the Community Palliative Care Service provides care for people with complex needs who have been diagnosed with a life limiting illness.  

  • The Palliative Care Consultancy Team work across Sunshine and Footscray hospitals, and provides phone advice to Williamstown, offering support for patients and their families at a difficult yet extremely important part of life. The consultancy team provide advanced assessments and symptom management along with discharge planning and assessing for the palliative care unit.  

  • The palliative care unit has 20 beds and is located at Sunshine Hospital. The teams’ focus is on enhancing patient quality of life by providing relief from pain and other symptoms and creating a comfortable stay for patients at the end of their life.   

  • The palliative care team also provide an outpatient service called the SMART clinic. These clinics run from Footscray Hospital on Wednesdays and the Sunshine radiation center on Mondays and Thursday morning, ensuring outpatients with complex symptoms have ongoing care and support from skilled physicians.