Palliative care nurse; When Margo Baker was in her second year of her registered nursing degree, she had an experience that changed the course of her career. “My grandfather was in a palliative care unit and I was so impressed by the care he was given by the nursing staff,” she said. When it came time for Baker to choose a speciality in the final year of her degree she already knew what she want to do. “When I was thinking of my grad year, I started to look at hospitals with a palliative care unit,” she said.
“In the six months of my rotation in palliative care, you do draw on your general nursing care but most of the training is from more senior nurses, and on-the-job training which is the same for any nursing speciality,” Baker said. Baker is employe as a palliative care nurse for the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre in Victoria, a public hospital that provides world-leading treatment complement by wellness programs, clinical trials and breakthrough research.
Wellness programs for patients
Each year the centre holds its annual fun run, The Wellness Walk and Research Run; which this year is on Sunday, October 6, and will fund cancer research and provide access to world-leading wellness programs for patients. “They think at the ONJ Centre, there is a focus on the person rather than what is wrong with them, and looking at the bigger picture in terms of palliative care, about what is important to the person in the time they have left,” Baker said.
“My job is about how they can, as a nurse, help support them to do the things; so that are important to them; so they can focus on the bigger picture. “It makes a big difference when you get to also see and work with their love ones; also building a rapport with the family. It can alleviate a lot of pressure for the family.
“A lot of our time is spend around educating the family; so not just dealing with the patient. And at the ONJ Centre, with all our wellness programs; so there is extra support so the patient and their family feels see and heard. It’s not just about changing a dressing, or handing out medications.” Baker says palliative care is perhaps one of the lesser known areas of nursing; also a lot of people do not understand what the specialty involves. “Palliative care is an emerging specialty.
Palliative care nurse
“But it is such a privilege to work with families and their love ones in the last stage of their lives; also support them through this hard time. As a society, they are quite remove from the dying process; also it is our job as nurses to alleviate; so that stress and fear and create a beautiful space around their love ones.” According to Lisa Roberts, a palliative care clinical nurse consultant in age care; also NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association, community and hospital base services have the highest proportion of palliative care nurses.
“The prevalence of nurse practitioners providing specialist palliative care is also increasing. Despite this many age care facility staff do not have specialist training in palliative care; also this may contribute to unnecessary hospital admissions,” she said. “Another area of palliative care nursing shortage is in rural areas as identify in the National Palliative Care Strategy 2018.” To work as a palliative care nurse requires a bachelor of nursing. To become a clinical nurse specialist requires additional qualifications; so such as a post-graduate certificate or diploma in palliative care, oncology or age care.
To become a clinical nurse consultant requires a master’s degree. “If a nurse want to become a clinical nurse educator, they would require a certificate V in training and assessment. The Australian government department of health provide opportunity for RNs to develop palliative care skills through a Program of Excellence; so in Palliative Care Approach program which provides workshops and placements for healthcare professionals within the palliative care space.”