Melissa Willson

Melissa Willson is a Senior Registered Nurse, working on both the oncology and medical wards, at an ACT Private Hospital. She participated in a PEPA placement from the 15th to 19th November, 2010.

As a registered nurse working in an acute care hospital, I often care for those in the palliative stage of their illness. Previously I have attended short courses and in-services, each giving a glimpse into an aspect of palliative and end of life care but I have never before undertaken a holistic, practical and experiential course such as PEPA.

Last week I was privileged to spend a week based at Clare Holland House in Canberra undertaking a PEPA placement. I spent a day in each of: orientation/overview, inpatient unit, community based palliative care, palliative care team at a large public hospital and aged care palliative outpatients. Every day was very different and the experiences gained in each environment insightful and invaluable.

My expected goals of learning of the PEPA placement largely encompassed physical care of people with life limiting illnesses, but my actual outcomes were much more diverse. Whilst adding to my knowledge of how to physically care for those coming to the end of their lives, I also experienced a totally holistic approach. This is the approach we aspire to provide in the acute care setting but one which is frequently suboptimal, and which often only caters for medical and nursing care. During my placement I witnessed truly holistic care which was demonstrated at case conferences where all inpatients and some outpatients were respectfully discussed by each member of the team, doctor, nurses, pastoral carer, social worker, occupational therapist and the co-ordinator of volunteers. Previous plans for managing difficult issues arising from previous meetings were reviewed and new strategies put in place. I have never seen a multidisciplinary team work so well together striving for the best possible treatment of those in their care.

Experiences I also gained in other areas foreign to my usual clinical practice (i.e. home based and aged palliative care services) widened my knowledge base and added to the brief but thorough palliative care exposure I received during my placement.

Having completed my PEPA programme, I feel I am better skilled to care for those with life limiting illnesses and now also have contacts in specialized palliative care services to liaise with when I need advice about assisting people in my own workplace. Ultimately the skills I learned and the resources I now have can benefit those in my care.

I thoroughly enjoyed my week of PEPA and would encourage other health care workers to also do the course.

Thank you to the PEPA ACT team and all the ACT palliative care team for a fabulous and worthwhile week.

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