The term “health care professional” covers a wide range of professions from a doctor, nurse and physical therapist to a pharmacist and nutritionist. There are many people who provide palliative care – some specialise in palliative care as a full time role, and others can have palliative care as a part of their daily work, including General Practitioners (GPs) and nurses in the care of the elderly.
Palliative care adopts a team based, interdisciplinary approach to providing care to a person and their family. A palliative care team may include a number of health professionals including doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, physiotherapists, bereavement counsellors, etc. The involvement of these and other health professionals is based on the needs of the person receiving care and how their quality of life can be improved.
Quality palliative care is required for people at all ages and across all settings of care. In practice, health professionals can provide services for people at different stages of life-limiting condition, depending on their specialty and practice setting. An integrated and person-centred system of care, with the involvement of those closest to the person, requires all health care professionals to have the level of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviours appropriate for their context of practice. All health professionals must be appropriately prepared for providing end-of-life care.
Continuing professional development in palliative care is an important part of the overall health care system to meet the needs of health professionals in various practice contexts to promote accessibility and ongoing learning in the palliative care field.
A health professional involved in palliative care should be familiar with the values and wishes of the person they are caring for in order to ensure that person’s ongoing physical, emotional, practical and spiritual needs are met. The extent and quality of support provided to the person and their caregiver is an important determinant of both of their experiences, and the ongoing impacts this experience has on a person, in particular the family, loved ones or caregivers.
The health professional works towards achieving care that improves the quality of life for the person and those closest to them. This can be done through providing access to information and support to the person and their family, loved ones or caregivers to enable them to access the health care and support services they need. Open communication is also essential for this to happen. The health professional needs to be aware of what services and information is available on palliative care and provide this information early on to the person and those closest to them – this is essential for people to make fully informed decisions and have the best possible quality of life.