My name is Sally Eves and I work as a Senior Social Worker for the Kimberley Palliative Care Service and I am employed to cover the whole of the Kimberley in a part time capacity!
Palliative care in the Kimberley has the same issues that affect people in the Northern Territory – for example the high incident of renal disease and death, the tyranny of distance in obtaining general medical and specialist services and the challenges of delivering palliative care to aboriginal clients in a culturally sensitive manner. For these reasons, I requested a PEPA placement with the Territory Palliative Care service situated on the Royal Darwin Hospital campus and I was lucky enough to secure a placement in February this year. Whilst my PEPA placement was based in Darwin, placements are usually conducted in your own state, and are organised by the PEPA Co-ordinator for (your state or territory).
On Sunday 17 February I flew from Broome to Darwin to meet up with (Mentor A), my social work mentor and supervisor, for a whirlwind 3 day placement. My introduction to this dynamic team began with my attendance at a staff meeting. Later, I met with many of the key staff on an individual basis to discuss their roles and to see them in action during case conferences, clinic reviews and teleconferences with remote clients.
One of the highlights of my trip was meeting Bev Derschow who developed and designed the Northern Territory Aboriginal Palliative Care model (see link below). Bev was able to share her experience in ‘spreading the word’ about palliative care and how finding the ‘right’ person to talk to when conducting a family meeting is imperative to culturally appropriate practice.
I learnt that the Territory Palliative Care is a specialist program which provides a consultative service throughout the Northern Territory for clients with a life limiting illness. TPC is multidisciplinary and, while there are differences in staffing in Central Australia and the Top End, the full team includes specialist physicians, specialist nurses, social workers, occupational therapist and a pastoral care worker and volunteers.
During my placement I especially enjoyed meeting with the Pastoral Care Worker, the OT and, of course (Mentor A), one of the team of two Social Workers who provide services to inpatients of the Royal Darwin Hospital, people dying in the community and patients at the eleven bed hospice facility on site.
On my last day of my placement, I was also given a tour by Guam of the ‘state of the art’ Allan Walker Cancer Centre which provides the latest radiation and chemotherapy treatments for patients, reducing the need for lengthy interstate travel for the majority of NT cancer patients. I was happy to learn that this centre has the capability to accommodate patients from the Kimberley and that this may become a possibility in the future.
I can enthusiastically recommend a PEPA placement to anyone and I encourage you to contact the PEPA Co-ordinator (in your state or territory) to discuss the details about applying for a possible placement for yourself.