Postgraduate Medical Councilof Western Australia Careers Portal
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*WA figures sourced from NHWDS & MET

Palliative medicine is the specialist care of people with terminal illnesses and chronic health conditions in community, hospital and hospice settings. As a palliative care physician, you will work with a multidisciplinary team whose focus is on optimising patient care towards the end-of-life and providing relief from pain and symptoms of illness.

Palliative medicine does not just involve cancer care. It also supports patients in end stage organ failure, degenerative neurological diseases and any other terminal illness.

Palliative medicine is a multidisciplinary field, requiring teamwork and good communication. Most of the work occurs in the public sector. As a palliative care physician, you’ll experience a lot of variety in your daily work including hospital-based work as well as work in the community and home visits.


FULL PANEL RECORDING
The challenges of palliative medicine
What's good about working in this field?

As a palliative care physician, you will require the following skills and interests:

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Working in a multidisciplinary team and collaborating with other medical specialties
  • Direct patient care – mixture of inpatient, outpatient and consulting
  • Compassion, understanding and empathy
  • Awareness of your own emotions associated with end-of-life care
  • Comfortable with end-of-life care rather than curing the patient’s disease
  • Interest in symptom relief for end-of-life
  • Providing holistic care across the patient and their support network
  • Educating patients and families and preparing them for what’s to come.
Working as a palliative care physician the main challenge is informing patients there are no more active treatment options available for them. These conversations often happen as part of a multidisciplinary team, but you need to be aware of how you feel in this situation. It’s important to ensure your patient understands that despite no more curative treatments being available they will still be cared for and supported as a palliative patient.


Requirements for the training program
Why choose palliative medicine as a career?

Advanced Training in palliative medicine requires three years (36 months) of full-time equivalent training through the Royal Australian College of Physicians (RACP). You can enter the training either after completing your BPT training or if you hold a Fellowship from an eligible college. More information about the specific requirements of training can be found on the College’s website.

To assist with getting onto the training program it’s beneficial to complete a Clinical Diploma in Palliative Medicine. This is a six months rotation and is a great stepping stone giving you insight to what’s involved in palliative medicine. It also looks good on your CV. It’s also important to make yourself known to the senior palliative care physicians in Perth because many of them sit on the Board who select trainees.

The majority of trainees now are dual trainees. A lot of physicians train in palliative care and geriatrics or oncology as well. This is the uniqueness of palliative care.

Keep an open mind and find a mentor early in the program (in addition to your formal supervisor for your terms) so they can guide you along the way. You’re going to have difficult conversations and experiences so making sure you have a mentor you’re comfortable to debrief with will be very helpful.


Tips for getting into the training program
The types of dual training you can do
Tips for getting through the training program

The job opportunities in palliative medicine are varied with some palliative care physicians choosing to work in the public system, others privately and others in a mix of both. There are opportunities to work in regional and rural areas, but most palliative care physicians work in metropolitan centres.

The general perception of palliative care is all doom and gloom, but it is very rewarding to work to care for someone with a life limiting illness. It’s very holistic medicine because you don’t just care for the patient you care for their whole family as well during this time.

In WA the uniqueness is that there are multiple areas to work including in-patient hospice, community palliative care, or a consultant role in an acute hospital setting such as Joondalup Health Campus or SJOG Midland. Once you’ve completed training you can choose the area that you’re interested in and focus on that field.

N.B. Career prospects are dependent on both the supply of specialists and the projected future demand for services provided by medical specialists (including general practitioners). The complex interplay of supply and demand is currently being modelled at both a state and national level and will be included when it's available.

What is the palliative medicine work environment like?