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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 18(4)

Do rural primary health care nurses feel equipped for palliative care?

M. Cumming A D , F. Boreland B and D. Perkins B C

A Far West Local Health District, NSW, PO Box 457, Broken Hill, NSW 2880, Australia.
B Centre for Remote Health Research, Broken Hill University Department of Rural Health, University of Sydney, PO Box 457, Broken Hill, NSW 2880, Australia.
C Centre of Excellence in Rural and Remote Primary Health Care Research, PO Box 457, Broken Hill, NSW 2880, Australia.
D Corresponding author. Email: mcumming@gwahs.health.nsw.gov.au

Australian Journal of Primary Health 18(4) 274-283 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/PY11150
Submitted: 8 July 2011  Accepted: 6 December 2011   Published: 14 August 2012

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Community primary health care nurses in rural and remote settings are required to provide palliative care as part of their generalist role. They have limited access to specialist medical and nursing support and sometimes there are no resident GPs. A study consisting of a mailed survey and follow-up interviews was conducted to explore the experiences of these nurses and to determine how personally and professionally equipped they felt for palliative care service provision. Most participants were registered nurses experienced in nursing and in rural and remote settings, who juggled multiple generalist work roles. They had only occasional palliative care patients, and more than half had provided palliative care for a friend or family member. Some nurses found palliative care rewarding, others preferred not to have to do it. However, even those who did not enjoy working with palliative care patients often went beyond the ‘call of duty’ to support a home death if that was what the patient wanted. Three-quarters had attended palliative care education in the last 2 years but 88% wanted more education. Barriers to education included competing work roles, work load, geographical isolation and lack of backfill. Support from managers and peers was considered important, as was accessing timely and relevant clinical support.

Additional keywords: clinical support, education, emotional impact, remote, support, workforce.


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