Picture of Daniel Reid smiling
 May 21, 2024

Palliative Care Week: Meet Daniel Reid

This week, 19-25 May, is Palliative Care Week.

Palliative care assists patients who have a life limiting illness to be as symptom free as possible. The palliative care team at the ONJ Cancer Centre works with patients to meet their emotional, spiritual and practical needs in a holistic way. Their support is also extended to family and carers.

To mark this week, we chat to Daniel Reid who is a Clinical Nurse Specialist on 8 South ONJ, our palliative care ward.

Daniel completed his graduate year at Austin Health in 2019, and has been working on 8 South since his second rotation.

What drew you to work in palliative care?

I was introduced to death and dying as a carer in Aged Care and in my involvement at church. I love it because you are given one of the hardest occasions in life and have the opportunity to step in make it just slightly better for a whole community of people. It is truly holistic care, involving emotional, social, psychological, spiritual and medical care with plenty of family and friends added into the mix.

Palliative care is often the ‘taboo’ topic in healthcare – we don’t speak with openness about this area like we do others. What are some of the misconceptions of palliative care and/or the role of a palliative care nurse?

When I mention where I work, I get raised eyebrows (at best) or horrified expressions (at worst). 

In the community, many people think that palliative care is about killing people with opioids. 

In both healthcare and the community, people think that a palliative care ward is only for the dying. 

The key thing about palliative care I repeat to my patients and families is that our job is not to speed up death but neither is it to slow death down. Rather it is about providing the best quality of life up until the very end by reducing the symptoms that are holding our patients back.

What are some of the most rewarding aspects of working in palliative care?

There are plenty of rewards but here are some:

  • Being there when someone dies comfortably is a truly sacred experience 
  • Those times when you change terror of death to comfort
  • The (often humorous) reflections of life and relationships that are shared around a death bed
  • 8 South also comes with the privilege of working with a truly exceptional team – it’s not specific to palliative care but it is a great fringe benefit.

People often associate palliative care with the concept of ‘just giving people a nice place to die’ – how has our model of care moved beyond this?

On average, 8 South has over 900 patients through our doors every year, yet only around 600 of those patients die in hospital.

Some patients want to die at home and we do what we can to make that possibility with the help of community palliative care, social work, occupational therapy and physiotherapy. 

Some want to die in hospital but want to live their best lives until then. We get their symptoms under control and send them home again.

Our patient's death is an important milestone in our lives and the lives of their community - palliative care is an aid to make it happen comfortably and give them the opportunity to make the most of life until then.

This year’s theme is ‘Matters of Life and Death’. What does this mean to you?

Death brings everything life into perspective. Relationships, unfinished business, religion and faith, finances and wills; these are all part of life that we keep on putting off. Yet in the face of inevitable death they are pressing issues; death puts urgency into matters of life.