Make a difference as a palliative care assistant

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A palliative care assistant helps to provide specialist end of life care and support to patients who have terminal illnesses such as cancer or other life-limiting conditions. As a palliative care assistant, you will support families in hospitals, hospices or patients’ homes while working alongside nurses and other healthcare professionals.

To get into this field, you will need to have some work experience in healthcare. Most employers will also want to know that you have specific understanding of what it means to work in end of life care.

A student assisting with patients during ward rounds, Tanzania. Job Description

Palliative care assistant are dedicated to providing healthcare support to patients who are in the last months or days of their lives and ensuring they are as comfortable as possible. They also provide emotional support to the patients’ families.

The main duties and responsibilities of a palliative care assistant include applying simple wound dressings, administering medication using syringes or inhalers, giving oral medicines, changing medical equipment such as catheters when required and ensuring that all the equipment that is used on the patient is cleaned and stored correctly.

In addition, these professionals also provide personal care to patients. This could include:

  • Help with washing, showering, bathing, hair and oral care
  • Help with toileting
  • Help with dressing and undressing
  • Administering eye drops
  • Applying lotions and creams as needed, particularly around pressure areas

Working hours for palliative care assistant differ wildly, depending on the employer.

Education & Training

Most employers do not require you to have any formal qualifications to start work as a palliative care assistant. However, they will expect you to have some previous experience in a healthcare role, either paid or voluntary. All employers will also expect you to have a good understanding of end of life care, or palliative care.

Although it is not a mandatory requirement with all employers, GCSEs grades (A-C) in English and maths may be useful in helping you to find a job.

Once you start work in palliative care, you will receive general on-the-job training from your employer. This is likely to cover:

  • How to provide personal care
  • Clinical hygiene
  • How to safely lift and move patients
  • How to accurately measure and record temperature, breathing, pulse, and weight
  • Keeping accurate records

Necessary Skills & Personality Traits For This Field

Being a palliative care assistant can be physically and emotionally taxing but the satisfaction you get from knowing that you made somebody’s last days bearable is unparalleled. Because of the highly emotional nature of the job, it is important that you have the following skills and personality traits:

  • A strong sense of empathy and understanding towards patients with palliative care needs
  • Excellent communication skills
  • A strong sense of responsibility
  • The ability to relate to people from a wide range of backgrounds
  • Strong team working skills with the ability to work on your own initiative when the situation arises
  • Respect for the confidentiality and individuality of each client.

Palliative care assistant who work with the NHS earn an average annual salary of about £14,294 to £17,425. Private and or temporary contracts pay hourly salaries in the range of £7.60 to £12.00 an hour depending on experience.

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