A new online platform created by and for Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs) working in specialist palliative and end of life care has been launched to address the educational, wellbeing and career development needs of this critical workforce.
Palliative Discovery has been developed by a hospice-NHS collaboration in response to the increasing pressures on this group of professionals who form the backbone of end of life and palliative care.
St Christopher’s Centre for Awareness and Response to End of Life (CARE), Central and North-West London NHS Foundation Trust and University College Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, recognised the additional strain placed on CNSs by COVID-19, the ageing workforce and predicted significant increase in the number of over-65s with a life-limiting illness. Consequently, the three organisations have come together to develop this community platform which will have person-centred care as its underlying principle.
The final factor guiding the architects of Palliative Discovery was demand from CNSs themselves. When surveyed, all the participants at the 2019 Building a Workforce for 2030 conference said they would like a means to connect and network with their colleagues and felt in need of education to meet the demands of their current clinical practice.
The platform, that’s initially free to join for all CNSs working in palliative and end of life care, thanks to funding from the Burdett Trust, will provide a thriving, multi-functional space that reflects and meets their needs.
Palliative Discovery has three types of learning offer, all delivered live online and then available to download and watch later. The first of these is roundtable events. These provide an opportunity for in-depth assessment and consideration of complex end of life and palliative care topics including dying with a substance misuse disorder and fear and terror states approaching the end of life. The second learning offer is webinars, videos and podcasts. Examples of the topics to be covered in these 12-60 minute sessions are; identification and classification of complex pain states in palliative care and working with people who are neuro-diverse. Workshops to help CNSs build a sustainable and healthy career are the third strand of learning offered by Palliative Discovery. Building resilience and honing leadership skills will form the focus for these workshops.
CNSs and subject experts will collaborate on the creation of learning modules, as well as enable opportunities for peer support and mentoring.
Further evidence of the nurses’ place at the foundations of this platform comes in the shape of its architects. They are three exceptionally experienced nurses, Maggie Bisset, who for over 25 years’ worked as a CNS and continues to practice as a Nurse Consultant in Palliative Care, Heather Richardson, Joint Chief Executive of St Christopher’s, with a long career in nursing previously, and Marie Cooper, St Christopher’s Project Lead for Palliative Care Nursing.
This trio has also drawn extensively on the Lantern Model – the first new model of palliative care nursing in 30 years, co-authored by Heather and Marie and launched by St Christopher’s Hospice earlier in 2021. They also combine experience and connections from across the NHS, hospice and wider palliative care networks.
Maggie said: “Working together, we believe we can make Palliative Discovery a vehicle for remodelling the role of the palliative care CNS, raising their profile, and boosting resilience so they are ready to be leaders in their field and better prepared for encountering future challenges in this care.
“There is a real need to develop the next generation of nurses working at this advanced level of practice and prepare them for the demands and dilemmas of the current context of care and future challenges presented by the changing needs of people facing death.”
As well as being a place to access formal learning materials, both written and recorded, Palliative Discovery will serve as a vibrant hub offering access to expert supervision, coaching and career advice – all things that are out of reach for many. The platform will bring CNSs together both online, in their own time, and in-person as well, notably with an annual conference.
Crucially, and as a further demonstration of the platform’s collaborative nature, all resources and training modules will be tested by CNSs before being shared widely, allowing for the platform to grow organically. Two communities of practice; Introducing New Psychological Concepts and Sustaining Spiritual Care provide an opportunity for those looking to delve deeper. In time, the goal is also to create a Palliative Discovery Nursing Association.
Maggie and her colleagues at St Christopher’s CARE see this as an outstanding opportunity for all CNSs working in specialist palliative care in every setting to grow their clinical expertise together, develop their leadership skills, share their effective methods and inspire and enable the next generation.
CNSs looking to shape their own career and practice as well as the wider future of specialist palliative care for CNSs are invited to join Palliative Discovery now.