My PEPA placement came about because I have had a long term interest in working in Palliative Care and saw this as an opportunity to further my knowledge in this area.
I am a Community Health Social Worker based in Zeehan on the West Coast of Tasmania. This is a rural remote community. The West Coast is serviced by the North West Palliative Care team. The goals for my PEPA Training were;-
- To gain a broader understanding of the Palliative Care role.
- Expand my knowledge of the Social Work role in Palliative Care.
- To gain insight into what grief and bereavement supports are currently being conducted in other parts of the state
- To learn what training and educational material Palliative Care could bring to the West Coast.
My PEPA training was for four days split between two centres. One was in Burnie where the North West Community Palliative Care service is based, the second placement was in Hobart at the Community Palliative Care Service and at Whittle Ward.
In Burnie, I was able to sit in on the community client meeting and observe the team discussing the various issues that arise within the Palliative Care setting. I also spent some time with Suzanne Wellesley, Social Worker, and gained further insight into the nature of the family support offered to clients. I was privileged to witness a young man, who is dying, make mementoes for his nephews. The joy he felt at his sense of achievement in completing these simple but powerful messages to his family was very moving. I was also present as Suzanne spoke with a woman who had mental health issues. This gave me further insight into how lifelong health issues can impact on families as a member is dying. Suzanne shared with me some of the ways that Advanced Care plans and Not for Resuscitation forms were written up. I find these confronting to read and write as they force us to consider the step by step process of disease degeneration and dying. Here I was also introduced to a strange beast called “Life Extinct” forms, this was the first time I had seen one of these.
Being in Burnie and spending time with Vicki Elphinstone (Manager) gave me time to discuss the scope of the Palliative Care role and start to flesh out ideas and information for Palliative Care training and educational material that can be bought to the West Coast.
Travelling to Hobart provided a very different experience. Being in a city is so different from the West Coast and the struggle to find a carpark and having my car fenced in by another car was one simple reminder. On the bright side, I was able to spend time with Fiona Jones, the Community Palliative Care Social Worker, and Chris Batten the Social Worker on Whittle Ward. We discussed various topics ranging from working in Palliative Care teams and the social work role within the team, the nature of holistic care and what is a good death. I was also able to discuss the support offered to families through the “making a memento” activities and the remembrance services conducted for Whittle Ward.
Whilst in Hobart I met with Jenny Fuller, Hospice Care Coordinator and coordinator for the ‘Walking through Grief’ project and discussed with her how this volunteer-supported walking group helps people through their grief. We also discussed the different memorial services that have been conducted for people who are mourning the death of a loved one.
I have some specific goals for what, HealthWest, can provide on the West Coast. These are to:-
- Increase the level of grief and bereavement support within the community
- Check, evaluate and update (where necessary) the type of Palliative Care resource material that is available on the West Coast for health workers and community members
- Work with NW Palliative Care and the local health workers to plan for further Palliative Care and grief and bereavement education for health staff on the West Coast.
My PEPA experience has provided me with the partnerships and information to enable HealthWest to achieve these goals.