PhD for Calvary Researcher’s investigation into what constitutes a good death for those approaching end of life in rural Australia?

Palliative Medicine Specialist awarded a PHD for her investigation into what constitutes a good death for those approaching end of life in rural communities

Sue Rainsford, was recently awarded a PhD from the Australian National University in Canberra, for her thesis “The influence of place of death and rural residency on the ‘good death’”. Prior to gaining FAChPM (2014), Sue was a rural General Practitioner in the Snowy Monaro Region of NSW. She is currently working as a part-time Palliative Medicine Staff Specialist at Clare Holland House, Canberra while continuing as a private Palliative Medicine Specialist in Cooma, NSW.

Sue’s interest in rural palliative care research was fostered by her clinical practice and an awareness of the paucity of published qualitative rural studies. Part of her thesis included ethnography utilising open-ended interviews, observations, and field-notes. 12 rural (town and farm) patients with life-limiting illnesses, 18 family caregivers, and six clinicians, in the Snowy Monaro region of New South Wales, Australia, participated in this study over the course of the deaths of the patients. Home was the initial preferred place of death for those interviewed; however, over time, dying in a safe place became important. The preferred place of death was the ‘safe place’, regardless of its physical location. A ‘safe death’ emerged as the central theme of a ‘good death’.

Rural residency helped maintain home as a safe place (e.g. privacy on the farm); however, these same features quickly rendered home an unsafe place of death (e.g. isolation). The roles of the rural hospital and residential aged care in end-of-life care are unique, and their familiarity within one’s community often makes them a safer alternative to home, and substitutes for in-patient hospice.