Empowering health professionals to deliver palliative care

In News by Jodie McHarry

Investing in quality end-of-life care is recognised as an important component of quality patient-centred care and ensuring the individual’s wishes and values are known and adhered to. Building capacity within the generalist workforce to provide quality end-of-life care has been made possible through the Program of Experience in the Palliative Approach (PEPA). 

 Central Queensland, Wide Bay, Sunshine Coast PHN (the PHN) recently partnered with PEPA in delivery of the program to GPs working in the Central Queensland, Wide Bay and Sunshine Coast PHN region. The program provided participants with access to supervised observational placements within a specialist palliative care service in order to develop skills, confidence and knowledge in the palliative approach. 

 PHN Manager for Older Persons’ Health and Palliative Care Paige Martinez, said the organisation’s health needs assessment survey revealed that enhancing workforce skills and capacity in the area of palliative care and enhancing access to and integration of palliative care service were identified as areas of need.  

Sixteen general practitioners were funded by the PHN and PEPA to complete observational placements between two and four days with various Specialist Palliative Care Services throughout South-East Queensland.   

The PEPA program forms part of the Palliative Care Education and Training Collaborative. As a national palliative care project, this Collaborative takes a strategic approach to education and training of the healthcare workforce and delivers programs for priority healthcare provider groups across primary, secondary and tertiary settings. 

The PEPA learning experience assists health care providers to identify the needs of patients with life-limiting conditions and understand the principles of good palliative care.  

PEPA also focuses on integrating learning into the workplace and establishing networks of support for participants. Reverse placements are also possible, where mentors visit participants, with reimbursement for backfill if placement is offsite, to assist with staff workforce management. 

PHN Manager for Older Persons’ Health and Palliative Care Paige Martinez said participants in the program have noted that the PEPA learning experience has positively impacted their knowledge and skills, resulting in the enhanced provision of care for people with life-limiting illnesses. 

“Participants cited an increase of confidence in dealing with the terminally ill patients and their relatives, improved management of symptoms and a better overall understanding of the palliative approach to care,’ she said. 

Dr Christelle Greeff, a GP from the Sunshine Coast, a previous participant in the program, praised PEPA as being a very positive learning experience. 

“The experience gained during my PEPA placement was second to none. I really appreciated networking with my colleagues and getting to know the clinicians in their various settings – in hospital, telehealth and the Outpatients department”, she said. 

“I feel like I can better support my patients in the community” 

“I thoroughly enjoyed my PEPA experience, and I would recommend it to a colleague in a heartbeat”. 

Dr Hannah Holland, a GP and previous participant in the program, also praised PEPA as being a very positive learning experience. 

“The process is really easy to navigate, and the team keep you fully informed, giving you lots of resources and keeping you up to date with what’s been planned for you during your clinical placement”. 

“I would recommend the program to any GPs or health professionals out there wanting the same experience”, she said. 

PEPA is currently being delivered across Australia and applicants from rural and remote areas are encouraged to apply. Applications can be submitted via the PEPA website. For more information visit https://pepaeducation.com/