More than 4,000 nurses in general practices across Australia will be offered training to help them initiate conversations with their patients about advance care planning and palliative care.

The free training program, funded by the Department of Health, consists of online learning modules, practical workshops and other resources to improve the knowledge and skills of GP nurses to promote awareness of advance care planning and assess the needs of patients and their carers.

Associate Professor Josephine Clayton, staff specialist physician in palliative medicine with HammondCare, said nurses in general practice were well-placed to initiate discussions on advance care planning because of their ongoing and trusted relationship with older people and people living with chronic debilitating conditions.

“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.”

The training program is being delivered by a national consortium led by HammondCare and the materials have been developed by a team of academics and health professionals from across Australia and the United Kingdom.

Through targeted training and resources, the Advance project aims to improve community awareness and uptake of advance care planning, as well as early referral to palliative care services.

Scholarships are available for rural general practice nurses to attend workshops to be held in major Australian cities and the online training and Advance toolkit resource have been endorsed by the Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA).

Access the education and training program by clicking here.

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  1. It’s good that health professionals get more training but I fear this will be used by palliative care teams to push people into rushing into making advanced care plans without taking time to think and without talking it over with their normal family doctor.

    I watched a family member get extremely upset after a visit by a public hospital palliative care doctor. The person was recovering from surgery and anxiously waiting for biopsy results. He was telling staff that, he was hopeful and confident that the results would not be cancer.

    The palliative care doctor chose this vey anxious time to approch the person to discuss advance care plannng and resuscitation. The doctor seemed to have no understanding that his communication skills were so poor.

    I later complained to be health service. I perceived the response by the health service and by senior palliative care doctors to be extremely arrogant and uncaring.

    There seems to be no will on the part of the health service or the senior palliative care staff to genuinely care for the welfare of patients.

    Hospitals seem to want to do Advance Care Planning as quickly as possible without giving patients time to think about it and go away and talk to their family doctors and their specialists. Patients should be well informed by doctors before they make decisions regarding future care.

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