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Palliative care nurse consultants in acute hospitals in Australia
  1. Margaret O’Connor and
  2. Louise Peters
  1. Professor Margaret O’Connor is Vivian Bullwinkel Chair in Nursing, Palliative Care, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Peninsula Campus, Frankston, Victoria. Email: Margaret.oconnor{at}
  2. Dr Louise Peters is Research Fellow, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Monash University, Peninsula Campus, Frankston, Victoria.


Background: The palliative care nurse consultant (PCNC) role has been in place in acute care hospitals in Melbourne, Australia, for some years. It developed from the recognition that death frequently occurs in acute hospitals and that palliative care is often initiated in this setting. However, there has been little work to ascertain the progression of the PCNC role and the impact that it has on staff and service delivery. Aim: The aim of this study, the third phase of a three-phase study examining the complexity of the PCNC role, was to explore the effect of the PCNC role on hospital systems from the perspective of the PCNCs’ managers. Methods: Using a qualitative approach, semistructured interviews were conducted with 11 senior managers from 11 hospitals to collect data relating to the PCNCs. Results: The PCNCs were highly regarded by their managers who saw them as experienced clinicians performing a key role as they ‘smoothed the way’ to appropriate services for patients requiring palliative care. PCNCs were invariably senior nurses, valued for their expertise. Providing advice and education to staff on clinical issues was considered a central component of the PCNC role. Conclusion: The managers saw a continued need for the PCNC in acute hospital settings. They acknowledged the importance of gathering information about the work of the PCNC to serve as evidence in support of the role and to ensure appropriate directions in future planning. Conflicts of interest: none

  • Acute hospital
  • Nurse consultant
  • Palliative care
  • Qualitative research

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