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Palliative Care: Healthcare professionals

Specialist palliative care services are provided by an interdisciplinary team of specialist palliative care professionals whose substantive work is with patients who have a life threatening condition. Specialist palliative care services are provided in care settings including community, home, hospitals, residential aged care facilities and palliative care units.

A specialist palliative care provider is a medical, nursing or allied health professional who substantively works in a specialist palliative care service. A palliative care specialist has the specialist knowledge, skills and expertise in care of people living with a life threatening condition, their families and carers, including management of complex symptoms, loss, grief and bereavement.

Considerations for referral to specialist palliative care service

While palliative care has often been closely associated with oncology, referrals may also be made from many other specialties. Increasingly, palliative care principles and approaches are being used in caring for those with advanced dementia, chronic heart failure, neurological disorders or end-stage renal disease as well as those with cancer diagnoses.

  • Patient wellbeing – physical, psychological, spiritual and social issues
    • Advanced and/or progressive disease
    • Multidisciplinary support and/or equipment required to support care at home
  •  Carer wellbeing, and whether they need assistance to maintain the carer role
    • Complex psychological, spiritual and social issues.

Triggers which may guide referral to specialist palliative care:

  • Modified Karnofsky score of below 50
  • Phase of care – i.e. unstable, deteriorating or terminal
  • Frequent presentations to acute care
  • Complex symptoms
  • Complex care needs
  • Home-based end of life care request
  • Assistance with decision making regarding end of life choices
  • Frequent inpatient palliative care admissions
  • Unmet psychosocial needs
  • Anticipated loss and grief issues
  • Anticipated poor bereavement outcome.

Last Modified: Monday, 27 February 2023