Generous donation helps develop palliative care nursing

Nurses play a pivotal role in care and communication for patients facing their last days, amidst complex health, social and spiritual needs. Now an innovative new project will better equip palliative care nurses for this challenging role, improving patient outcomes - thanks to a generous gift from the husband of a former palliative care patient.

The research and training project has been made possible by the philanthropic support of Richard Jamieson whose wife Barbara was cared for in her last days at Greenwich Hospital about 18 months ago. The *CARE: Palliative Nursing@HammondCare Project, which was officially launched today, is being led by some of HammondCare’s senior palliative care nurses and also involves collaboration with the UTS Faculty of Nursing.

Mr Jamieson said caring for his wife through three months of palliative care had been a daunting experience for them both, “…not something you are trained for, nor something you really think about beforehand.”

His experience highlighted the importance of nursing care for palliative patients and the unique range of communication skills required, prompting his generous support through The HammondCare Foundation for a specialised training program.

The launch event at Greenwich Hospital Education Centre was attended by a wide range of HammondCare and UTS nursing representatives along with doctors, patients, family members and supporters.

Communication underpins nursing practice

Neringah Hospital Director of Nursing, Margaret Brown, one of the leaders of the project, thanked Mr Jamieson for his generous support which she said provided a unique opportunity to enhance the capacity of HammondCare palliative care nurses to deliver optimal psychosocial care for patients, their families and carers.

“This project is designed to improve the quality of nursing experience for patients in palliative care, and their families, by focusing on the very best qualities of what it means to be a HammondCare nurse,” Ms Brown said. “Communication is a core skill that underpins nursing practice. Nurses working in palliative care face unique issues and, more than most, need to understand and learn how to communicate empathetically, which in turn builds confidence.”

She said the first step would be to run a pilot program of communication skills workshops and if successful, to extend the program to other HammondCare hospitals and wards, and then possibly other palliative care providers.

The training would be based on the projects research phase which would collect data through observation, clinical audit and patient stories. Literature research would also occur on best practice for communicating effectively in a hospital setting. Together this would provide an evidence-based framework for communication strategies.

A key to the success of the project would be involving nursing staff and nursing unit management teams in all stages. Reflective practice and constructive feedback would assist the transfer of learning to palliative care wards and this would include participant surveys.

The collaboration with UTS Faculty of Nursing would assist in developing a rigorous and credible research and training program.

Nurse-sensitive focus leads to excellence in person-centred care

Greenwich Hospital Director of Nursing, Julie Miles, said at the heart of the project was the desire to specify and communicate the practical implementation of HammondCare’s Mission in Action in the palliative care setting.

Research and training would be “nurse-sensitive” in the sense that it would measure, analyse and enhance the impact nurses have on the outcomes for patients. This in turn would ensure excellence in person-centred care.

“Nurses are major contributors to health care delivery and often drive organisational culture,” Ms Miles said. “The palliative care environment and experience is particularly daunting for patients and family members. Nurses are uniquely placed to support them through this time and the communication training is an important step to enable nurses in establishing therapeutic relationships with patients and family members.”

The project team leader for CARE: Palliative Nursing@HammondCare is Greenwich Hospital CNE Julie Farmer. The team’s project plan covers four phases – research, development, delivery and evaluation - to occur over 12 months starting September 12. 

* CARE stands for Communication, Acknowledgement, Rapport, Empathy.