Dying to Get it Right on D2K Day

Thanks to Kate Holmes sharing about her work and her event for Dying To Know Day.


Health care professionals are human beings with similar strengths, weaknesses, fears and anxieties to Joe Public. One of these anxieties is talking about death and dying – especially with patients and their relatives.

I am a Palliative Care Nurse Consultant in a busy acute private hospital in Melbourne.  The question most commonly asked by nursing staff when I commenced my post was “How can I best care for a patient who is dying?” This question was asked across all wards by all levels of staff. My approach to answering this question started with in-service sessions. Within the organisation in-services were allocated 30 minutes of time during shift handover.

It was felt that the nursing staff needed an opportunity to spend a day off the ward in a safe, protected environment to learn some of the basics of end of life care including communication. We knew we could not answer all of their questions but we aimed to provide the staff with a starting point to continue their end of life education.

Having been involved in the organisation and delivery of similar seminars in my previous post in England I approached a member of the pastoral care team to assist with all aspects of the day. We set up a small working party to brainstorm ideas and put together the day. Speakers included the palliative care nurse consultant, oncology clinical care liaison, four religious leaders, palliative care specialist, and pastoral care team member. Method of presentation delivery varied including power point, whiteboard, discussion, reflection and a specially recorded video. Prior to the day registrants were asked to answer an important question:

Describe how you feel about caring for a dying person in one word? – Some of the responses included incompetent, anxious, and awkward.

Dying to Get it Right 2012 was held on Tuesday August 7th. 69 members of staff registered for the seminar with 88% attending. Evaluation forms were completed by 77.5% of attendees. Evaluations for the day were excellent. The pre-seminar question was repeated on the evaluation form. Responses were much more positive than the pre seminar answers, including empowered, helpful and “let me at it”.

As a result of the positive written and verbal feedback it was decided to run another session but we did not have the opportunity to arrange one for 2013 and held a small informal discussion on Dying to Know Day instead.

This year we are holding the Dying to Get it Right Seminar on 8th August to coincide with Dying to Know Day and response has been very positive. We currently have 72 registrants and are in the process of last minute preparations for the day. The format has changed slightly – we do not have the video but have a funeral director speaking about the work she does.

The aim of the day is to encourage health care professionals to open up the conversation of death and dying amongst themselves. This will hopefully lead to them discussing death and dying with their loved ones and ultimately with patients and their relatives.


Kate Holmes 

Find Kate's event here.




Kerrie NoonanComment