A neighbourly approach to improving palliative care

Annapolis Valley Department of Family Medicine, Palliative Care Team and Victorian Order of Nurses (VON)

Knowing your neighbours and being part of a community are easy concepts for Nova Scotians. Health professionals with Nova Scotia Health Authority in the Annapolis Valley are now taking those concepts and applying them to delivery of care of patients living with life limiting illness.

“We always put the patient and family in the centre of our care but we quickly realized that improving care depends on how well we work together,” says Fern Brydon, manager of hospice, palliative and continuing care in Annapolis Valley.

This spurred the co-ordination of a continuing education session in mid-2014, followed by the most recent one in May.

Hosted by the Annapolis Valley Department of Family Medicine, Palliative Care Team and Victorian Order of Nurses (VON), the session was attended by 40 participants representing family physicians, social work, continuing care, seniors health, discharge planning, and VON nursing staff. The objective was to understand how these health care profession “neighbours” can work together to improve care.

“With any conversation at any table, we need to ‘know our neighbors’ and take the opportunity to look at how we work together across geographies, programs and sites to support our patients and families,” says Dr. Crystal Todd, head of family medicine in Annapolis Valley. “It’s important to take the time to break down silos, problem solve and learn together.”

Todd says that the team initially focused on learning about each other’s roles, engagement of family physicians, and best practices using an integrated care model.  The sessions were designed to explore specific considerations around a palliative approach to patients and to better understand the opportunities for alignment with the national palliative care framework, The Way Forward, and the Nova Scotia Integrated Palliative Care Strategy.

The working group is looking at the best ways to address some of the barriers discovered through the education sessions.

“This work is about us providing the best experience possible for patients living with serious illness, and their families,” notes Todd. “Opening up lines of communication and connecting with each other is an integral piece of how we improve our care to help ensure that living well until death is a reality for more Nova Scotians.”