Highlights from #ANZSPM16 pre-conference workshops

The Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine (ANZSPM) 2016 Conference opens today. A number of excellent pre-conference workshops were held yesterday, including:

  • A comprehensive trainee day, including a great workshop from Katrina Anderson on self-care and reflection about love, strength, vulnerability and respect; the use of methadone (Pippa Hawley); the challenges of providing palliative care in residential aged care facilities (Douglas McGregor), patients and families with vulnerable personalities (David Kissane), and the neuroanatomy of distress (Lisa Miller)
  • A great presentation on the role of media in palliative care, followed by a hands-on workshop in the afternoon, under the encouraging guidance of Marie Mills; and
  • Supervisor workshop, lead by Michelle Gold and Brian Le

Team Palliverse will be broadcasting from the #ANZSPM16 Conference for the next three days. If you are at the conference, please come and say g’day – and recharge your devices – at the social media hub!

Room for reflection #ANZSPM16

Reflection room

Nothing will sustain you more potently than the power to recognise in your humdrum routine, as perhaps it may be thought, the true poetry of life – the poetry of the commonplace, of the plain, toil-worn woman, with their loves and their joys, their sorrows and their griefs.

– Sir William Osler

In order to enrich the conference theme of honouring the art of palliative medicine, the conference organisers at the upcoming Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine (ANSZPM) 2016 Conference in Perth, Western Australia have created a specific room for self reflection.

The Reflection Room will provide a nurturing space for conference participants to consider the human connection that we all experience as palliative care clinicians, and the impact this has on our own personal growth. The room will contain powerful art pieces that depict resilience in the face of dying, which aim to help delegates reflect on their experiences over the course of the conference, undertake guided mindfulness, or most importantly, just be.

Have you been to another conference recently where self-reflection, mindfulness and art featured strongly in the program? Was there space set aside for delegates to practice these activities amidst all the hustle and bustle of the conference program? Was it useful for you?


Victorian Cancer Agency funding opportunities


The 2016 Victorian Cancer Agency funding round is currently open, with a number of schemes available that may be of interest to palliative care researchers:

  • Translational research projects
  • Clinical research fellowships
  • Mid-career research fellowships
  • Early career seed grants
  • Supportive care scholarships (at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre)

Most of the applications close in August.


Spirituality and self care in palliative care practice


Photo by Miran Rijavec via flickr

Dr David Brumley is a palliative care specialist with extensive experience working in regional Victoria and across South East Asia. Here he reflects on the importance of spirituality and self care in palliative care practice.

Dr Doug Bridge ran a Spirituality Workshop last September in Melbourne, as part of the 2015 Palliative Care Australia conference. To my knowledge this was the first such workshop associated with a palliative care conference – in Australia, at least. Unsurprisingly, it was very well received. Thanks Doug.

The existence of Spirit and the possibility of spiritual distress and suffering seems unarguable. If spirituality is the ground of our being, spiritual suffering could be seen as our alienation from that.  With variations, many definitions observe the four aspects of spirituality to include relationship with self, others, environment and the transcendent. Such descriptions might allow acceptance by both the religious and atheist. The literature refers to many ways to measure these aspects of spirituality. For example, John Fisher developed SHALOM, a questionnaire that examines these four areas. We applied this questionnaire to members of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine (ANZSPM) in 2007-8. Many surveyed doctors didn’t feel they had the capacity to help patients in the domains of spirit.

Dying people suffer spiritual distress, and doctors might sometimes be best placed to identify and provide, at the least, initial help. Our own spiritual wellbeing is also needed if we are to care for them and for ourselves and avoid personal distress and injury. The spiritual health of the patients we care for is our responsibility. So is our own. I wonder if they are two sides of the same coin? Ralph Waldo Emerson thought so: “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”

Doctors need to be able to recognise and at least provide initial care of spiritual distress. Do we know what it looks like? Where are the boundaries between psychology and spirituality? How does a doctor approach the question of spiritual assessment of a patient? How would a model of spiritual care be different, for example, from existential psychotherapy? How might it be useful? What are the required skills for such care? What should we take on, and when and to whom should we make referrals? I don’t think we have developed adequate answers to these questions.

Should a structured approach to self-care include a spiritual component? What advantage would that have for us? Should our College have something to say to trainees about spiritual care of others and ourselves? The Royal College of Psychiatrists believes so,  but not everybody. A recent Twitteration on the issue of mindfulness in schools in the USA suggested that many people believed that meditation is inherently a practice of other religions. Don’t look inside, for goodness sake!

As a group we know we must be high-level communicators. Should we also aim for an overt training in talking about what life means, even if it is about to cease, or should we simply follow Osler, and “minister to our patients through warm human contact”? Is that enough? I don’t think so.

#PallANZ tweet chat: Advance Care Planning

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Advance care planning is an important process that is increasingly being taken up by our community. When done well, it can help those with serious illnesses take control of their future health care. However, many people in our community still do not know about advance care planning, which means those who are likely to benefit from the process are missing out.

How can we do better?  Continue reading

#PallANZ tweet chat

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Grief and loss is something we will all face at different times throughout our lives. Whether it is the death of our pets, our friends, our children, siblings or parents; the experience and expression of grief in response to these losses can be a very personal and individual thing. Grief can also arise in anticipation of loss. For those living with life-limiting illness, living with the loss of social role and professional identity can be especially challenging.

Thoughts about old, new and future losses can be particularly common during the festive season. For some of us, it may represent an anniversary of the death of a loved one, and bring with it painful memories of loss. Some might be facing their first Christmas ‘alone’, while others may be grappling with the possibility of celebrating their ‘last Christmas’.

While living with grief and loss is a personal experience, we don’t have to endure it on our own. As a community, there are many ways that we can support each other. Join us to talk openly about living with grief and loss.

TOPIC                    Living with grief and loss

DATE / TIME       10th December, 2015 @ 1900 AEDT

MODERATOR     @Elissa_Campbell

T1 Have you experienced grief and loss? How would you describe it? And what did you need from those around you?

T2 How do children live with grief and loss? How are they different from adults?

T3 What kinds of support are there for people living with grief and loss in your community?

T4 As a community and as individuals, how can we better support those living with grief and loss during the festive season?

Community members wanted


We want you! (By James Montgomery Flagg via Wikipedia)

We are looking for community members to join our team at Palliverse.

If you are interested in palliative care and would like to contribute to our work here at Palliverse, we would love to hear from you! We are seeking individuals who do not directly work in palliative care, and are keen to invite current, past and future consumers (e.g. patients, carers, family or friend) to come on board. Personal experience with palliative care is welcome but not essential. Prior participation in community advocacy or representation is not required – but sharing our goals and values is a must!  Continue reading

Death and dying in the media

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Q&A. Love it or loath it, or maybe a bit of both. But there is no denying that it strikes a chord with a sizable portion of the Australian population who would perhaps rather not be watching A Current AffairToday Tonight or their new lovechild: The Verdict. Continue reading

3rd Australian Palliative Care Research Colloquium

Prof Patsy Yates sharing her reflections on setting up a NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in end-of-life care at the PCRNV Breakfast Forum

Prof Patsy Yates sharing her reflections on setting up a NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in End of Life Care at the PCRNV Breakfast Forum

For the third year in a row, the Australian Palliative Care Research Colloquium was held at the Rendezvous Grand Hotel in Melbourne on October 22-23. The meeting was once again preceded by a breakfast forum hosted by Palliative Care Research Network Victoria (PCRNV), which served as a tempting entrée to the two-day main course of fantastic presentations and workshops exploring a diverse range of topics pertaining to palliative care research. Conversations about research continued over tea and meal breaks, next to quality poster presentations, and during the convivial conference dinner on the banks of the Yarra.  Continue reading

#PallANZ tweet chat

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And we’re back for another round!

Following on from the highly successful inaugural #PallANZ tweet chat last month, we are delighted to announce that we will be hosting another tweet chat in November! Join team Palliverse (@Palliverse) and Liz Callaghan, CEO of Palliative Care Australia (@PCACEO), and “Let’s talk about death, baby!” Share your stories and reflections on having THE conversation with your family, friends, patient, doctor, nurse, spiritual counsellor…

Date: November 5th 2015

  • 7pm AEDT (Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart)
  • 6:30pm ACDT (Adelaide)
  • 6pm AEST (Brisbane)
  • 5:30pm ACST (Darwin)
  • 4pm AWST (Perth)
  • 9pm NZDT (Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch)
  • Other time zones 8am GMT, Hong Kong/Singapore 4pm

Hope to see you all there!