Bringing end of life into the light
It may sound counterproductive to say that end of life care can be life changing, but Silver Chain Nurse Practitioner Giuliana Duffy says that’s exactly what it is.
She says that having a clear care plan in place takes away some of the natural stressors, so both the patient and the family can focus on what’s more important.
“The earlier you can get involved the better, so patients and their carers can understand the road ahead and have time to consider advance care planning.
“Death is a normal part of life, but we’ve hidden it away in the modern world. So we’re not used to seeing it and dealing with it,” she said.
A highly experienced nurse, Ms Duffy is one of two nurse practitioners providing palliative care for dementia clients and those with other chronic end of life conditions through Silver Chain’s palliative care service.
She says it’s a role she finds incredibly rewarding.
"You get to follow patients to the end of their lives and support them. You’re really making a difference at an important time to these families. That’s what keeps you going,” said Ms Duffy.
“Sometimes those conversations we’re having with carers and their families is often the only opportunity they get to speak to someone about how they’re feeling.” The appointment of Ms Duffy and her colleague Claire Doyle is the result of an incredibly successful fundraising appeal last year.
“We had hoped to raise enough to bring on board the services of at least one nurse practitioner with this specialised experience, but we raised a record amount through last year’s Winter Link Appeal. It exceeded our expectations,” says Tish Morrison, Director of Clinical Operations, Palliative Care for Silver Chain WA.
“That’s meant we’ve been able to hire two nurse practitioners, so we will be able to provide twice the amount of support for our patients at such a critical time.
“We can’t thank the generosity of donors enough – they really are making a big difference to the lives of many people.”
The two nurse practitioners are highly qualified, with a master’s degree in Clinical Nursing and many years of experience. They can administer medication, run tests and see clients at home and at aged care facilities.
Morrison says as well as medical expertise, the nurse practitioners “bring a more holistic approach. End of life care is so important. It means we can really be with our patients from the beginning of them needing our help and support them right through to the end,” she said.
Working alongside Ms Duffy as a nurse practitioner is Claire Doyle, who has more than a decade of palliative care experience.
She says given her experience and how she’s seen end of life care help others, it’s hard to put into words the importance of being able to offer the service for clients.
“Palliative care nursing enables people to feel more in control, even if patients don’t want to go there, and allows carers to plan and facilitate future care for their loved ones,” said Ms Doyle.
“I came into nursing a bit later, that was all I was ever going to do. Yes, sometimes it can be hard, but understanding and valuing the role is what enables me to do it day in and day out.
“This role is an opportunity of a lifetime. It’s giving us an opportunity to make a difference to others, and we will be able to reach a lot of people.”
Ms Doyle said she is particularly pleased at the opportunity to offer end of life care to the elderly.
“This is really bringing end of life care out into the chronic environment – so the non-cancer environment – which is where most of our ageing population are.
“For Silver Chain to have identified the value of this role for this particular group of people is really quite life changing for those patients.”