It’s National Palliative Care Week. Held from 22 to 28 May, this important week is a time to recognise palliative care, and the specialists, nurses, general practitioners, volunteers, allied health professionals and community workers who support it.
Palliative care helps people live their life as well as possible for as long as possible, when living with a life-limiting or terminal illness.
Palliative care considers the individual's physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs, as well as the needs of their loved ones and carers.
This year’s theme is ‘It’s your right’. It highlights the rights of all Australians to access high quality palliative care when and where they need it.
Mandy Martin is a Specialist Palliative Care Nurse at Ballarat Hospice Care. We spoke to Mandy about her role and how palliative care can make a difference to patients, carers and families.
Tell us about yourself and your role at Ballarat Hospice Care.
‘I am a Specialist Palliative Care Nurse with a background in oncology. I have worked at Ballarat Hospice Care for over 20 years. Each day brings me new life lessons and challenges. I have found that working in the community allows people to have more control over their choices. The power shift from hospital to home makes caring a truly shared experienced with the patients and families who I am privileged to care for.’
How did you come to specialise in palliative care nursing?
‘I had an interest in palliative care from the beginning of my nursing career - the studies I undertook and the experience I have gained enriches both my professional and personal life.
Walk a road with people at their most vulnerable and there is a great sense of trust that we will do what we say we will do to make their lives more comfortable and where their choices are supported. The time we give to inform and educate enables a better death and better memories for the carers.’
What does palliative care involve?
‘Palliative care is offered to improve the quality of life of patients who have a life-threatening illness and it is an approach to care that addresses the person as a whole and not just their disease.
Importantly, what stands out for me is the skill of truly being present: listening to patients and their families while assessing any related problems be they physical, social or spiritual. This openness allows for an honest exchange of information and enables them to feel safe and heard, which in turn enhances their care and experience.’
What message do you hope to spread this National Palliative Care Week?
‘That it is OK to talk about palliative care as it is not just about death and dying. We focus on living well and symptom management which contributes to a better life.’
What’s the most rewarding part about being a specialist palliative care nurse?
‘I feel honoured to be invited into people’s homes at one of the hardest times of their life. Patients give us a gift – to be present with them.
While we can’t change what is happening, we can have an impact and make a difference. We treat everyone the way we would treat our own family…that’s with respect, kindness and dignity. We don’t judge anyone for their choices. It is their life and what matters is that we are there.’
How does the new hub in Alfredton support the work you do?
‘Our vision was to ensure that the palliative care hub is calm and inviting – a place that puts a positive face on palliative care and what it has to offer. The building is accessible and inviting for patients, their families and carers. It is a place where our partners feel welcome and one that allows for the strengthening of relationships to offer and deliver coordinated and integrated care. This building meets our needs and reflects our values. We have a much better working environment and one which allows innovation and flexible service delivery. There’s dedicated spaces for our volunteers, clinical care, counselling, education and health promotion. The space is intentionally not branded as Ballarat Hospice Care so that visitors can make the space their own, truly sharing the hub with our community. The hub helps us to raise awareness about palliative and end-of-life care and the right for all to access quality palliative care.’
Clicking the "Previous" button changes the display below the button. Clicking the "Next" button changes the display above the button
The following tab controls change the content above
A view of the waiting area
The courtyard area
A counselling room
A clinical room
The following tab controls change the content above
About the Ballarat Hospice Care palliative care hub
Based in Alfredton (a suburb of Ballarat), the Ballarat Hospice Care palliative care hub opened in 2019.
Previously, community palliative care services were delivered from a heritage-listed church in Ballarat. The church had limited space for staff to meet with clients and families, and for training staff and volunteers.
The new expanded facility means more patients and their families can access end-of-life care and counselling.
The new hub includes:
clinical and family counselling rooms
a multi-purpose education suite for volunteers and staff
a dedicated secure reception area
equipment storage areas
facilities for families and visitors.
It’s one of more than 480 projects funded through the Regional Health Infrastructure Fund (RHIF) since inception.
The $790 million fund is the largest of its kind in Victorian history. It is rebuilding rural and regional health services to ensure all Victorians can access the high-quality care and facilities they need, no matter where they live.