The research reveals a lack of resources tailored to rural nurses, despite their unique practice compared to their urban counterparts and existing competency tools in general and home-based care.
Conducted by a team of researchers led by Associate Professor Dr. Hanan Khalil from La Trobe University, this study aimed to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses in the knowledge of rural nurses regarding community-based palliative care in Victoria’s Gippsland region. The researchers developed a Palliative Care Skills Matrix Questionnaire to achieve this.
Dr. Khalil explained that the questionnaire, designed with rural nurses in mind, exposed significant gaps, particularly in pain management and crisis handling.
“The study highlighted that a third of the rural nurses surveyed lacked knowledge in managing pain using opioids, managing delirium and the management of rare emergency situations within palliative care,” Dr. Khalil noted.
The survey further highlighted that clinical experience played a pivotal role in enhancing knowledge related to recognising and managing palliative care emergencies and other symptoms and conditions.
The Palliative Care Skills Matrix Questionnaire (PC-SMQ) was constructed based on the Australian National Palliative Care Standards and was developed collaboratively by rural nursing and palliative care communities. It has revealed that insufficient experience and formal training are closely tied to knowledge gaps in palliative care.
To address these issues, Dr. Khalil mentioned that funding from Aged Care Research and Industry Innovation Australia would support expanding palliative care initiatives into aged care facilities and provide assistance to staff in various aspects of palliative care management.
She also emphasised the potential of targeted interventions, such as training programs and peer mentoring, to bridge the identified gaps among rural community-based nurses, ultimately leading to improved palliative patient care.