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Palliative Care Nurse Link Program

Western NSW Local Health District
Project Added:
17 November 2013
Last updated:
16 October 2014

By James Daley, Western NSW Local Health District


The Palliative Care Nurse Link Program is an ongoing program that was established in June 2013 in Western NSW Local Health District to enhance the care that is provided to palliative care patients in rural communities by non-specialist palliative care health providers. Participants in the program are non specialist palliative care nurses working in small rural communities in both inpatient and outpatient settings who have a keen an interest in palliative care. The program consists of:
  1. Palliative care education 1 day workshop
  2. 2 days clinical placement with nearest Specialist Care Team (Bathurst, Orange, Parkes and Forbes)
  3. Monthly video conferencing with Palliative Care Team
  4. Bi-monthly newsletter
  5. Palliative Care Clinical Nurse Consultant (CNC) support


The project aims to:

  1. Strengthen clinical relationships and referral processes between generalist health care providers (multi-purpose services) and the specialist palliative care team who provide consultative services to the local facility
  2. Develop clinical skills of generalist care providers in the assessment, care and needs of palliative care patients and their carers
  3. Enhance existing systems for monitoring of palliative patients’ needs for support in outlying districts.

Project objectives

  • The primary object of this project is to enhance the care and support palliative care patients and their carers living in regional and remote areas receive, taking into account the relative strengths and resource constraints of existing regional and local systems
  • Enable a pathway of professional development for generalist clinicians who have an interest in palliative care
  • Enhance networking between clinicians working across different disciplines and clinical settings.


The fundamental aim of palliative care services is to improve the quality of life for patients and their carers with life limiting illnesses and support the palliative care that is provided by generalist health care providers in all health care settings.

Palliative care is best provided within the context of a collaborative multi-disciplinary model which works very closely with existing informal and formal care networks.

The ability of the specialist palliative care team to support palliative care patients in rural communities is dependent on many factors and usually works within the framework of a consultative care model. This collaborative system can be enhanced by specialist palliative care services actively supporting generalist health care providers understanding and knowledge of palliative care principals and facilitating the strengthening of caring networks in local communities. The Link Nurse Program is a system of strengthening specialist nursing services capacity and was developed extensively in Britain and adapted to the specialist palliative care experience in rural NSW.


  1. Discussion of project with local management. Their initial support and enthusiasm for the project is vital to its success and long term viability
  2. Identification of nurses who were keen to develop skills in palliative care. It is suggested that ideal candidates have:
    • good background knowledge in the palliative approach, have developed excellent communication skills and be in a position to implement change at local level
    • clinicians wishing to participate will need to apply to the Palliative Care CNC and fill out a short application form outlining their interest and experience in palliative care
    • the ability to attend:
      • a one day palliative care workshop. Speakers drawn from multi-disciplinary specialist palliative care team
      • two day clinical placement with a local specialist palliative care team. A key component of the training will include the development of links with local palliative care providers. In addition to experiential learning in a palliative care specialist service, participants will be supported to implement a planned activity in their workplace within three months of completing the placement
      • one day education session with a Palliative Care CNC and a member of the local specialist team, working through the PCC4U Palliative Care Course. This course can be completed online and it is a requirement that participants complete the course
      • monthly video conferencing: link nurses videoconference with the specialist palliative case team and discuss current complex cases
  3. Workshops and clinical placements were facilitated and funded by Palliative Experience in the Palliative Approach (PEPA).
  4. Bi-monthly newsletters from the Palliative Care Area CNC will keep program participants and other interested clinicians up to date with local and national palliative care issues

Rationale and Benefits

Through the support and training this program offers, palliative care services in outlying communities by non-specialist palliative care health providers will be enhanced.

Relationships between local specialist palliative care teams and outlying generalist care providers will also be formalised and strengthened through the multidisciplinary, multi-setting approach.

Clinicians completing this program will be able to add the training provided to their professional development portfolio, particularly if they would like to develop their career in Palliative Care.

An Evidence Based approach to the care of Palliative Care patients is strengthened throughout Local Health Districts.

Potential Challenges

The literature identifies that the main challenge to the implementation of this program reaching its potential is the insufficient time and availability of clinicians to adequately service their enhanced role.


Clinical Nurse Consultant, Palliative Care
Western NSW Local Health District
Phone: 02 6330 5558

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