Collaboration in a time of stress and uncertainty

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Collaboration in a time of stress and uncertainty

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia’s testing and distancing strategies have minimised disease spread. However, at the same time, our health systems have been engaged in preparing for an alternative, far worse scenario where potentially many people would be infected.

In this alternative situation, some people may become critically unwell with a smaller, but highly significant proportion, unlikely to survive.

Faced with this dire possibility, the collaborative response of health care workers to mobilise systems with the aim of providing care to all who might need it has been remarkable.

During this pandemic, many colleagues have commented that even though this disease’s effects are societally catastrophic, they have found the current climate pleasing to work in. This observation is perhaps not surprising as greater cooperative and friendly behaviours in time of acute stress have been demonstrated in both men and women (1,2).

As health professionals, we have seen this as a willingness to engage and contribute to ensuring the most appropriate care will be readily available to all should they need it regardless of cultural background, age, or pre-existing health issues.

At a state and federal level, palliative care has been included as central to Australia’s response. Like other services, palliative care clinicians have embraced this by continuing to lead and participate in planning not only between palliative care services but in collaboration with others particularly aged care, community health and critical care.

This is with the aim of ensuring that Australia’s humanitarian response to this pandemic will if necessary include sufficient capacity and capability to provide timely, evidence-based care at the end of life for those who may require it.


  1. von Dawans B , Trueg A, Kirschbaum C, et al. Acute social and physical stress interacts to influence social behavior: The role of social anxiety. PLoS ONE 2018; 13(10): e0204665.
  2. von Dawans B , Trueg A, Kirschbaum C, et al. Effects of acute stress on social behavior in women. Psychoneuroendocrinology 2019; 99: 137-144

**Professor Katherine Clark MBBS MMed PhD FRACP FAChPM is the Clinical Director of Palliative Care, NSLHD Cancer and Palliative Care; Network Conjoint Professor at the Northern Clinical School, The University of Sydney; Honorary Professor, Faculty of Health UTS (Sydney) and consults at the Northern Sydney Cancer Centre.

This article was originally published in the Australian COVID-19 Palliative Care Working group newsletter

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