National Palliative Care Week 2020 – Learning the value of compassionate palliative care in an acute hospital setting

Aleisha Mundie, Registered Nurse (Graduate Nurse Program) | Calvary Adelaide Hospital

Kristy Stapleton, Graduate Nurse Program Coordinator | Calvary Adelaide Hospital


This year’s National Palliative Care Week theme is “Palliative Care: It’s more than you think.” What is something you tell people about palliative care that surprises them?

Palliative care no longer depends on proximity to death, but focusses on the quality of life for a person with life limiting disease.

It is a form of care that focusses on the person’s needs and symptom management rather than cure for the disease itself. With good palliative and end of life care, we can support a patient’s dignified end of life.

This takes a village, rather than one person, and often requires clinicians of many disciplines to support acutely unwell patients well.


Tell us about how allied health professionals contribute to a multidisciplinary palliative care team in providing palliative and end of life care to patients in an acute hospital setting?

In my experience, my patient had input from Dietetics for symptom management to ensure safety and comfort measures were implemented.

The patient was originally admitted for an acute illness and was planned for a PEG insertion, however with dietetic input, this was reviewed as not being the best option for the patient given her overall health. Dietetics also had input in supporting the patients potassium levels as they were dangerously low.


Palliative and End of Life Care is known for being able to adapt to challenge with creativity and compassion. Can you reflect on an instance where you or a colleague have had to adapt the way you provide care during the COVID-19 pandemic?

I recall one situation in particular where a language barrier impacted the way we could communicate. Since visitors weren’t able to enter the facility to assist, I used physical touch to aid in effectively communicating as well as possible. I was also resourceful and facilitated phone calls with the patient’s loved ones.


What is something you have learned about the people receiving care, their loved ones, your colleagues or yourself, when thinking about how palliative and end of life care is provided during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Palliative and end of life care should be in keeping with principles that governed one’s life and maintain the dignity and authenticity despite the challenges of COVID-19.

Given the restrictions and limitations in delivering end of life care to my patient during COVID-19, I did the best I could with what the what I had available. Providing a high standard of end of life care to patients hasn’t been compromised because of COVID-19. I put this down to the high level of knowledge we have as health practitioners within our organisation.


What’s next for your work; what are you looking forward to?

As a graduate nurse, I am very early in my career. I have always aspired to be a part of the clinical response team in acute deterioration scenarios.

From this experience in providing palliative care to a patient in an acute care hospital setting, I have come to realise the magnitude of importance of palliative care to patients with a life limiting illness and its ongoing place in my career path.