GP Nurses to be trained in advanced care planning

More than 4,000 nurses in general practices across Australia will be offered training to help older people and those with chronic and debilitating conditions to plan for their future health care needs and their death.

A team of academics and health professionals from across Australia and the United Kingdom were involved in the development of the training materials and the program will be delivered by a consortium led by HammondCare.The national, federally funded program Advance, is designed to introduce advance care planning into general practices in a sensitive and routine way. It will also help identify people who may benefit from a thorough assessment of their supportive care needs and consideration of early referral to palliative care.

Associate Professor Josephine Clayton, Staff Specialist Physician in Palliative Medicine, with HammondCare, said the program filled an important gap in addressing the future health wishes of people at risk of deteriorating and dying. "Health professionals can feel uncomfortable discussing dying with their patients,” she said.

“But most patients and carers welcome the opportunity to talk about their symptoms, problems, concerns and priorities. The training the nurses will receive through the program gives them the skills to start the conversations with patients with empathy, care and compassion.

"Specifically the program will focus on initiating a conversation about planning for future health care, particularly in case the person ever became too unwell to speak for themselves.

"At this stage we will be training nurses in general practices because their ongoing relationship with patients means they are ideally placed to provide a full supportive care needs assessment. This assessment will help to see if the patient, and their carers, have any unmet needs,” Associate Professor Clayton said.

Training will take place across all metropolitan cities and major regional centres during the next five months. Scholarships are available to regional and rural general practice nurses. There is also an online training program which has been endorsed by the Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA). The Advance Toolkit has been officially recognised as an accepted clinical resource by the Royal Australasian College of General Practitioners (RACGP).

For further information or to arrange an interview with Josephine Clayton please call HammondCare Public Affairs on 02 92686758.