Dying To Know Day ...in a hospital setting

Dying To Know Day was bigger than ever this year thanks to the many passionate people across Australia. In this account, written by Arlene Roache, LHD Palliative Care Volunteer Coordinator and Janeane Harlum, Area Palliative Care Manager for South Western Sydney, we hear about how the area health service designed and implemented a series of events for their staff and community. 


August 8th 2015, Dying to Know Day is an annual day of action dedicated to bringing to life conversations and community actions around death, dying and bereavement. This initiative to encourage and educate people to start conversations and take action was endorsed by the LHD’s Advanced Care Planning and Care of the Dying ( ACPCOD) committee.


The LHD’s Palliative Care Volunteer Service took a lead role in the organisation of each event which included securing, picking up resources, packing the bags and preparing the signs and posters for the display boards. At each facility, the executive sponsor called for active participation through nominating champions to assist with and the coordination of the information stands in the hospital foyers.   

Printed fact sheets, brochures in English and translated for most languages together with promotional materials were kindly donated and promptly delivered by the NSW Trustee & Guardian, CareSearch and Donate Life.  Posters, Dying to Know Day buntings and conversation starters were purchased from The  Groundswell Project by the area palliative care service  

What we did

 The aim was to engage in meaningful conversations around Death and Dying with staff and the community.  This was done through the pledge cards to assist people to start thinking about “Having a conversation with a loved one”, “Make or update my will”, “Talk to my family about my wishes”, “Appoint my enduring guardian”.

Staff and palliative care volunteers were in attendance at every hospital and assisted with set up, talking to people and pack up.  The volunteers and staff engaged in meaningful conversations around Death and Dying, Living Wills and having conversations around ‘Who will Speak on your behalf if you are unable to do so” as well as listened to many stories shared.  In particular the palliative care volunteers need to be commended on the manner in which they delivered the conversations and acknowledged stories shared.


A total of 250 bags with resources in English and promotional items were given out throughout the LHD, more than 60 empty bags were prepared by people who selected resources in their languages together with the promotional items.  Around 160 staff and members of the community wrote their pledges and 56 people across the LHD stopped to have a chat.  These included members of the hospitals’ executive team.

Feedback received from staff and volunteers who have previously assisted with similar activities during Palliative Care Week were that this was their most successful exposure.  They felt that they were able to engage people in conversations and exchange thoughts and ideas, people spoke of their personal experiences, family and general attitudes, regarding death and dying and expressed opinions as to how these important matters could be raised, and dealt with in a less confronting way.  They felt that this event attracted a larger number of staff members stopping for a chat; some taking away pamphlets that they thought were useful for patients when bringing up the thorny issues of Wills, Advance Care Directives.  The ‘Message Stick’ had worked well within the facility as staff members who came to the stand said that they were encouraged to visit the stand. In Bowral Hospital, staff members from the Private Hospital came over for a chat. The posters were great and delivered the message. The words and language used on the posters were simple and effective.


Thank you to all executive sponsors, clinical governance unit, palliative care volunteer coordinator, volunteers and all staff involved in the organization and delivery of Dying to Know day.  It was a great team effort.

Kerrie NoonanComment