Palliative care information for rural and remote GPs and nurses

  • Rural nurse ona property
Dr Deborah van Gaans,  Research Associate Susan Gravier,  Research Officer
Flinders University, CareSearch
Dr Deborah van Gaans,
Research Associate
Susan Gravier,
Research Officer

Australia’s population is growing and ageing and, with many people living with chronic illness, care for people towards the end of their life is becoming increasingly important. This is particularly so in the remote and very remote areas of Australia, where the burden of disease is high and the number of health professionals low.

Rural and remote healthcare professionals may not see palliative care as everyday business; however, it is very much part of what they do in caring for people with advanced life-limiting illnesses such as heart failure, dementia, lung disease, kidney failure or cancer. When these people choose to die at or close to home, local health professionals, family and friends provide support and care.

In the absence of a specialised palliative care centre or with limited health services, quality palliative care within a rural or remote community requires careful planning. Whether that care is provided in the home, a small hospital or aged care facility, general practitioners (GPs) and nurses generally deliver palliative care across settings and facilitate a range of services to meet specific needs of people in their care.

The rural and remote setting provides GPs and nurses with the opportunity for professional independence and an extended scope of practice. While many GPs and nurses may have some training in palliative care, the opportunity to upskill or refresh is important to meet current and future demand. The lack of local upskilling opportunities can be overcome through flexible online information, resources and training options.

CareSearch provides online palliative care information and resources with a focus on translating evidence to support practice. The CareSearch GP Hub and Nurses Hub both provide practical evidence-based information across assessment, planning, physical and psychosocial care, and grief and bereavement. The Health Practitioner Education section highlights major palliative care initiatives across Australia and provides links to an array of e-learning opportunities relevant to palliative care issues.

CareSearch has recently created a series of reference guides to help GPs find relevant resources and help them upskill in palliative care in any geographic location. The guides provide GPs with quick access to actionable, relevant resources to help them support patients along their palliative care journey, from the first conversation to providing support for the bereaved family. The series of four downloadable guides hosts resources to support holistic palliative care, including a focus on people with specific needs.

The CareSearch Nurses Hub has recently been redeveloped in collaboration with a steering committee of six nurses from aged care, community, acute, and rural and remote sectors. A larger group of nurses, who responded to a call for an expression of interest, also provided valuable insights and advice. The Nurses Hub is now organised in line with key nursing activities so that nurses can easily select what they need:

  • Communication – an essential part of palliative care. Explore ways to gather and share information respectfully and compassionately.
  • Assessment find out how to recognise needs and monitor for changes.
  • Planning and coordinating care – learn how to involve individuals and teams in planning and care coordination for current and future needs.
  • Clinical care – find practical information on responding to physical and psychosocial needs.
  • The dying patient – understand how to recognise and manage imminent death and respectfully conduct after-death care.
  • Loss, grief and bereavement – learn how to support those going through grief and bereavement.
  • Tools for nurses in palliative care – find a range of forms, checklists and tools to assist you in providing palliative care.

Visit the CareSearch website for palliative care information and resources to support GPs and nurses.

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