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Why is Palliative Care Important?

Recently, the Palliative Care team at POWH were awarded a grant to fund art therapy  for patients in palliative care. Dr Rebecca Strutt is leading the initiative to help patients in palliative care alleviate anxiety, create memories for their loved ones, support their mental wellbeing and ultimately allow the difficult part of their treatment to be one of dignity and respect.

The palliative care unit is an area of the hospital that is often misunderstood. After our conversation with Dr Jessica Borbasi, we discovered a new profound respect for the staff who are providing dignified and respectful care for their patients.  Dr Borbasi shares some of the common misconceptions of palliative care, her journey into working in the field and why raising awareness for Palliative Care Week is incredibly important.


  1. Can you please introduce yourself and your role at POWH?

My name is Jessica Borbasi, Palliative Care Specialist at Prince of Wales Hospital, and I look after patients who are admitted to hospital.  I am just a small part of a big team that includes the Community Palliative Care team, who see patients at home all the way from north of the [Sydney] Airport to the entire of Randwick City. We’ve also got a new Cardiac Supportive Care Clinic and the Multidisciplinary Clinic called The Hub.


  1. What initially motivated you to work in palliative care?

During my physicians training, I did some research into palliative care. I came to see that this type of medicine was something that really appealed to me. And then through advanced training in palliative care, I realised that this was the career for me. I found it incredibly rewarding. It’s satisfying to get to know people, their families, hearing their stories, and then having the opportunity to make, sometimes, a really big difference in their lives, however much time they might have left.


  1. Do you have a cherished patient memory since working at POWH?

I actually have two special memories. One is a young mum that I had the privilege of looking after. I first met her in clinic, and then, many months later, she needed to come into hospital. We helped look after her in hospital and ensured that her symptoms were well managed. When she was well enough, we were able to send her home where she got to spend time with her young children, which was important.

Eventually she came back into the hospital, and we cared for her at the end of her life and ensured that her death, surrounded by her children and her family, was dignified and comfortable. Although it was incredibly sad, it was also a really beautiful journey we got to be a part of and we felt like we contributed to a different story.

The second patient was a young man with metastatic cancer who was incredibly unwell. He had severe symptoms, pain, nausea, and the existential distress that comes from a relatively new diagnosis. We were lucky enough to manage his pain and symptoms, get to know him and his family. Then he developed a mutation in his cancer, which meant he could  access  a new type of therapy. That t therapy worked so well that in the end, I discharged him from the Palliative Care Clinic, because he was doing so well.


  1. Palliative Care Week is coming up in May – in your own words, why is it important to acknowledge staff and patients in palliative care? Why is it important to raise awareness during Palliative Care Week?

I think medicine and palliative care have come a long, long way, but unfortunately, we’re still misunderstood and feared.  I think palliative care week creates a good opportunity for us to showcase the services that we offer, which are quite vast, from home to hospital to clinic. The difference that we can make in people’s lives and that if we are given the opportunity, more often than not, we do make people feel better, and have improved their quality of life. Believe it or not, we can even contribute to people living longer.


  1. What are some of the common misconception and or concerns patients and friends or family of patients have?

That being referred to palliative care means that you’re dying A much bigger part of my job is to look after people who have a problem or condition that we can’t cure, but we can treat. And most people, I say, are receiving treatment for heart failure, kidney failure and cancer conditions that we’re treating. So palliative care isn’t necessarily that you’re dying. In fact, it’s that you’ve probably got too much time ahead of you, but we can help make that time as comfortable as possible and with the best quality of life.

Another concern or misconception [about palliative care] is that the other doctors have given up hope or abandoned you if you’re being referred to us. And again, that’s certainly not the case. We work closely with all the teams in the hospital and patients are more often than not receiving care from more than one team at the same time, as they receiving care from us.


Many patients in the hospital need your continued support to provide them with more initiatives like art therapy to aid their recovery and treatment. Help us support Prince of Wales Hospital  to raise care for future patients and their loved ones.