This year, to mark National Palliative Care Week, Peter Mac is shining a light on Parkville’s new Palliative Care Unit, Peter Mac’s Palliative Care volunteer program, and the benefits of providing quality palliative care.

Importance of quality palliative care

One of the common misconceptions about palliative care is that it is all about end-of-life care. The theme for this year’s National Palliative Care Week, “It’s more than you think”, seeks to dispel this myth and raise awareness about the many benefits of quality palliative care. 

At Peter Mac, the “palliative approach” aims to achieve the best possible quality of life for people with advanced illness. Services aim to respond to the physical, spiritual and cultural needs from diagnosis, to the end-of-life bereavement.

Holly Pitt, Nurse Unit Manager of the Palliative Care Unit (Ward 1A) at Peter Mac (part of the Parkville Integrated Palliative Care Service), has been in palliative care for some 15 years and describes it as a real privilege.

“To be with someone at the end of life, and support them on the journey, is a privilege, and you often only get one opportunity to give them the absolute best”.

Hear more about Holly’s experience delivering quality palliative care to patients:

Parkville’s Integrated Palliative Care Service

The Parkville Integrated Palliative Care Unit – now with 24 inpatient beds – opened its doors in October 2020. The purpose-built unit, led by a highly experienced multidisciplinary team, aims to achieve the best possible quality of life for people with advanced illness and their families and carers. It also provides a state-wide palliative care service for young people, with two rooms fitted out to cater to the unique needs of young people aged 16 to 25.

Associate Professor Brian Le, inaugural Director of the Parkville Integrated Palliative Care Service, says, “The service is all about focusing on the needs of our patients and looking after them – and their families and carers – as best we can through what we know can be a really difficult time.”

“We’re really all about listening to our patients and addressing their needs, right throughout their illness and beyond.”

Associate Professor Le also says that, “While clinical care is the bedrock of what we do, we are also trying to improve the treatments we provide and are very invested in research, clinical trials, investigating new service delivery models, and improving care and cultural safety for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients”.

Hear more from Associate Professor Le on the new Parkville Integrated Palliative Service:

Palliative Care Volunteer Program

Given the complexities surrounding end of life care and bereavement, a specialised volunteer program has been established at Peter Mac, bringing together resources and expertise from the hospital’s Prevention & Wellbeing, Palliative Care, and Volunteer Services teams.

Volunteers aim to support the person as a whole, not just the disease. Early feedback from volunteers reveals that conversations with patients often aren’t about illness and death at all. Volunteers have reported discussions on many topics, from occupations, life, family and religion, to travel, electric cars and politics.

Kate Foley, one of Peter Mac’s recently recruited Palliative Care Volunteers, was drawn to the program as a way of giving back.

“I am a big believer in not ending life alone and making sure you’ve got the right people around you to support and care for you”, she says.

Kate describes the conversations she has had with patients as beautiful, uplifting, and “so much more than a chat”.

“It has been about sharing, and for a lot of them, just getting things off their chest and talking about life. You get a lot out of their joy and seeing their face light up when they talk about family and their children.”

Hear more about Kate’s experience as a Palliative Care volunteer in these interview highlights:

Read more about palliative care and answers to some commonly asked questions on the Palliative Care Australia FAQs here. 

For more information and updates on the Parkville Integrated Palliative Care Service, visit the webpage here