Specialist to enhance palliative services at hospice in Nelson
Hospice is often thought of as a final refuge; a place where people spend their last days.
But as the service evolves it is offering much more than that.
Nelson Tasman Hospice's first palliative medicine specialist Dr Jodie Battley said late-stage care was still a core part of the service, but it was now involved with patients much earlier.
That allowed staff to build relationships with patients and their families.
"The big message is that we can help you live well with limited time, it's all about quality of life."
* Nelson hospice nurses heaven sent
* Hospice takes on a new meaning for Nelson man Andy Pui
* A bundle of hope after rare disorder claims Nelson man
* Nelson Tasman Hospice launch fundraising campaign for new build
Battley said the research showed that early integration of palliative care with oncology and other services meant better outcomes for people.
"These patients do better in terms of quality of life, symptom control and satisfaction with their care."
Integrated care meant patient expectations and the uncertainty around terminal illness could be better managed.
"We do a lot of talking about what the patients want as they deteriorate and the way we can do that is by getting involved early."
She said her role was to develop the "excellent team" into a specialist service with a variety of functions.
That included providing education and support to other healthcare providers including GPs, hospital specialists and aged care facilities.
She said a lot of her work involved symptom control and pain management, particularly for complex patients. Managing expectations was a huge part of that.
"Pain is one of the biggest things and not only physical pain, there are lots of different ways that pain can manifest itself."
Born and raised in New Zealand, Battley studied at Otago Medical School and worked in Ireland for 10 years, first in oncology before specialising in palliative medicine in 2016.
The specialty interested her because of its potential.
"I think it was seeing what is possible and knowing that just because a person has a diagnosis that is going to shorten their life, doesn't necessarily mean it defines them."
The most enjoyable part of her role was the chance to work with patients and their families. Battley said so much could be done to improve someone's symptoms and therefore their quality of life.
She said specialist palliative care was increasingly in demand.
"Our referrals here have gone up by 25 per cent in the last four years so that really shows that we are increasingly needed but also the great faith that the community has in hospice."
About 10 to 15 per cent of patients had challenging palliative needs and required complex care.
But not all palliative care patients needed specialist services; many of them could be managed with the support of their GP.
Battley intended to focus on developing the service in the community and visiting rural clinics. She also hoped to implement a consult-based service at Nelson Hospital.
In the last 10 years, the type of hospice patients had changed. Previously, most patients had a cancer diagnosis whereas now the spectrum of illness was much wider.
About 60 per cent of patients in the region had a cancer diagnosis and 40 per cent had non-malignant disease.
Groups that had been previously neglected included those with end-stage heart failure and progressive neurological conditions like motor neurone disease.
"The face of palliative care really is changing."
She said hospice services in New Zealand had come a long way in providing specialist palliative care.
"Like most countries hospice started with volunteers or people who had been affected by cancer or loss and it has been built up over time to become a specialty."
With the new hospice building, the service was about to undergo a significant change.
"We are on the verge of something really exciting moving to the new unit, it is a great time to be involved in that change and drive other potential areas of development.
"I don't think that the whole ethos of hospice is lost with the changing service, at the crux of it we are still able to provide that excellent care with a warmth and sensitivity that you don't see in other health sectors."
A New Home for Hospice
The Nelson Tasman Hospice is building a new facility in Stoke and is asking for the community's help to fundraise $2.5 million of the $11.5m project. To donate, visit www.nelsonhospice.org.nz/donate