This post is a year overdue. If I were to have written this in April 2015, the title would have been “The tale of two deaths” where I would have reflected upon the peaceful, managed and expected passing of a 93-year-old aged care patient contrasted with the tragic accidental death of a 19-year-old patient whom I’d seen only a week earlier.
But what I’ve learnt is that tragic accidents are random, unexpected and do not happen often. More importantly I have been involved in the end-of life care of several patients since then, that have taught me a great deal about palliative care medicine, the value of open and frank conversations with family and some of the myths surrounding the management of death.
This is also a story of my maturity through being stretched and learning that the part of medicine that I ran away from the most has ended up becoming my greatest passion and future, aged and palliative care.
I feel like such a fraud. What am I doing writing a guest post for Palliverse, when I am a doctor who rarely provides palliative care? My justification for writing here is that it’s this very sense of uncertainty and underqualification that I’m feeling which is the subject of my post.
I’m a “general practitioner” — a “GP” as we’re called here in Australia. If you’re reading this post from North America, think “family physician” — it means much the same thing — but for convenience I’ll use the term “GP” today.
GPs in Australia are managing increasing numbers of older Australians with complex progressive conditions. I am managing a project that is producing education and resources to support GPs provide the best care of this patient cohort in the last year of life. Palliative medicine specialists and trainees have an opportunity to participate in this project by letting informing their networks of the activities of the project and participating in educating GPs in their service’s catchment area to help promote linkages. This blog post is to give you all an outline of this work and information on how to get more involved.