New tools to help health professionals with palliative care conversations

Palliative Care Australia

Doctors, nurses, and other health professionals needing to have difficult conversations with patients and loved ones about death and dying now have new resources to support them.

The successful ‘Palliative Care – it’s more than you think’ campaign has been adapted to include a factsheet, poster, and other tools designed to support clinicians who are referring patients to palliative care.

“Our research highlights that the general public, especially those being referred to palliative care, often have limited understanding and experience of palliative care,” says Dr Sarah Lord, Palliative Care Consultant, The Prince Charles Hospital, Brisbane.

“Many people believe that palliative care is solely provided immediately before death, rather than care delivered to optimise quality of life for people who are seriously ill along their illness journey.”

Research led by the Queensland University of Technology highlighted clinicians’ confidence in the power of palliative care to help people and improve quality of life. Of the health professionals surveyed:

  • 89% agreed that patients benefit from palliative care when it is initiated earlier in the course of their illness.
  • 73% believe palliative care is best placed to manage symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, and nausea.
  • 73% believe palliative care is best placed to meet the needs of family and loved ones.

“The research also highlighted that end-of-life conversations can be challenging and present a barrier to early referral to palliative care,” Dr Lord says.

“Referring clinicians are sometimes poorly equipped to manage patients’ understandings of palliative care, we want to flip that.

“By virtue of the established relationships clinicians have with their patients, they are well positioned to help patients better understand palliative care and be less fearful.”

With funding from The Prince Charles Hospital Foundation, the existing ‘more than you think’ tools have been adapted to be ‘more than they think’ tools that clinicians can use to frame a conversation and help reset misconceptions.

“As a foundation, it is our goal to enable people to live healthier for longer, and we are so proud to support the generation of resources that may help healthcare workers better understand palliative care and how it could help their patients earlier in their care journey,” says Dr Megan Grace, Research Manager, The Prince Charles Hospital Foundation.

The initial ‘it’s more than you think’ campaign was run by Palliative Care Australia in 2021 and 2022 with the support of the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care. The aim of the campaign was to raise awareness of palliative care and break down some of the attitudes that stop people accessing the support they need earlier.

Campaign materials were produced in 11 different languages and included a special focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Chief Executive Officer of Palliative Care Australia (PCA), Camilla Rowland says that these new clinician resources will build on the success of the original campaign.

“We know that palliative care from the time of diagnoses of a life-limiting disease can prolong life, improve quality of life and reduce symptoms like pain and breathlessness,” she says.

“Palliative care is about more than just end-of-life care – it’s a holistic approach to care that takes in the social, emotional, and spiritual needs of a patient as well as their medical needs.”

The ‘Palliative Care – it’s more than they think’ clinician resources are a collaboration between Queensland University of Technology, Queensland Health, The Prince Charles Hospital Foundation, and Palliative Care Australia.

The advice and information contained in the new resources is relevant to health professionals across Australia and are available as free

/Public Release.