Free online end-of-life education targets hospital staff

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Free online end-of-life education targets hospital staff

A new online course enables hospital-based health professionals to learn more about end-of-life care.

Hospital-based health professionals and others working in acute-practice settings have the opportunity to complete new online training to enhance their end-of-life care.

Today, Flinders University is launching three free online learning modules which cover managing end-of-life issues in hospitals, recognising dying, and communication and decision-making. A further three modules will be launched in October.

The End-of-Life Essentials syllabus was designed by Kim Devery, head of discipline and senior lecturer, Palliative and Support Services at Flinders University.

Ms Devery said the modules could be completed in 30-60 minutes and could help physicians and nurses meet requirements for self-directed continuing professional development.

Educators and health professionals who provide residential or home-based care may also find value in the resource, which includes quizzes, links to evidence and educational videos.

“Hospitals are fantastically efficient at treating people, but you have to get out of that mindset and ask, ‘Could this patient be dying?’”

“We want to prompt the learner to think how they would respond to a patient in a range of situations. What is really important is that there is no one right response. There are a variety of [appropriate] responses and it is about adapting it for you,” said Ms Devery.

She gave the example of a patient asking how long they have until they die.

“There is not one response to that, but interactive learning enables learners to adapt and adopt appropriate responses, tweaking or changing phrases other people have found useful, until they find something they are comfortable saying.”

She said the resource placed an emphasis on the importance of hospital-based professionals recognising when end-of-life care could play a role, potentially years before the patient’s death, and that it could be provided at the same time as active treatments.

Ms Devery said 52% of Australians die in an acute hospital, where there was a focus on curative treatments, rather than the provision of end-of-life care. She said leading health commentators and intensive care experts have described the hospital system as having a freeway to intensive care and a conveyor belt to treatment.

“Hospitals are fantastically efficient at treating people, but you have to get out of that mindset and ask, ‘Could this patient be dying?’” she said.

“Unless you ask that question, it is very difficult to put in quality of care for end of life.

“We need to be thinking, ‘Could this elderly patient with repeated pneumonia, who has been in intensive care twice in the past six months, be dying and what tools and frameworks could I put in place to understand where this patient is at’.”

A detailed outline of each module is provided below.

For further information on End-of-Life Essentials, and to register, click here.

Module 1: Dying, a normal part of life

In Module 1, you’ll learn about the opportunities and challenges in managing end-of-life care in acute care hospitals. You will also learn about the importance of conversations and recognising the patterns of common illnesses and why this matters in end-of-life care. You will be prompted to reflect and identify your own skills in end-of-life care and how to improve them.

Watch, listen and learn from leaders such as Dr Peter Saul, a senior specialist in intensive care and a patient who, in the final stage of his life, wanted you to know about what he regarded as important.

Module 2: Patient centred communication and shared decision making

In Module 2 you will learn more about your own strengths and learning points in having end-of-life conversations with patients.

You will be invited to focus on areas in your communication on which to develop and grow. You will have access to specialised and peer-reviewed video, communication tips and tools, and opportunities to adapt, adopt and develop your communication skills. Watch, learn and then practice how to increase the effectiveness of your communication across a wide range of common end-of-life scenarios.

This module and its resources have been designed for individual use or small group work. It includes quizzes, tips and frameworks, extensive evidence-based resources and interactive learning opportunities.

Module 3: Recognising the end-of-life

Have you ever wondered how you can strengthen your ability to recognise a patient in the last year of life, or even in the last weeks or days of life? Recognition of end-of-life is vital in terms of providing quality care.

In Module 3 your will learn more on the use of tools and triggers to recognise the end of life. You will also learn about telling the truth with kindness, understanding uncertainties of prognostication, and realising the opportunities of end-of-life conversations. You will also have access to evidence-based care plans, frameworks and prescribing guidelines for the last days of life.