Bluewater Health working to improve full spectrum of palliative care

LEAP_groupA_Feb_2013_lowrezSome 30 healthcare professionals from Bluewater Health are now better equipped to care and communicate with patients receiving palliative care, the result of a two-day program that was held Friday and Saturday.

The program—Learning Essential Approaches to Palliative and End-of-Life Care (LEAP)—recognizes that while the term palliative can be seen to have one meaning (end of life), an increasing number of those who enter palliative care eventually leave the hospital.

“Through an enhanced model of palliative care we will be better able to offer hope when things appear hopeless," said Lynda Robinson, Bluewater Health's vice president of operations. "It used to be that only 30% of our palliative patients were discharged but we’re now seeing that rise to nearly 50% which means we need to have a level and model of this type of care that extends beyond our hospital walls.”

The word palliative really refers to making patients comfortable and managing their pain or symptoms so treatment can continue – symptoms, for example, like nausea, shortness of breath, fatigue, sadness and fear. At its heart is the support for the patient and family during the journey.

Last week's session was provided by (and funded in its entirety) through the Palliative Pain and symptom management consultation program. Offered through an application process throughout Southwestern Ontario, the session is highly sought-after.

Speakers included Dr. Glen Maddison and Dr. Monique Dostaler, and Sarah Canning, RN, all of whom work at Bluewater Health.

Also presenting were Ann Brignell, RN, a nurse educator with the Palliative Pain and Symptom Management Education Consultation Program for Kent and Lambton Counties; and Dr. Donald Brisbin from Chatham-Kent Health Alliance.

The Palliative Care unit at Bluewater Health has 18 beds, but palliative patients may be located throughout the hospitals.

Sue Roger, business director, medical programs, said building on a heritage of improving palliative care began in the 1940s.

"As our thinking has evolved, so too has our desire to provide all our patients with the same access to palliative care, no matter where in the hospital they’re being treated.”

The objective, organizers say, is to make palliative care at Bluewater Health as comprehensive, innovative, coordinated and supportive as possible, incorporating team care into all aspects of comfort—physical, psychological, and spiritual.

The approach will also continue to incorporate outreach and partnerships with St. Joseph’s Hospice, as well as agencies like the Community Care Access Centre and nurse specialists working with a Palliative Care team.

Pictured are, from left, Dr. Glen Madison, Dr. Donald Brisbin, Dr. Monique Dostaler, Ann Brignell, Teri Pask, Sarah Canning, and Maura Purdon.

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