Chapter 1: Paramedics and Palliative Care
What is a palliative care call?
“A palliative care call requires a change of mindset. Aggressive measures aren’t what’s needed.” - Canadian paramedic
When you receive a call from dispatch, the traditional response is to treat the situation as an emergency. Often, it’s only after arriving at the location and assessing the situation that you realize it’s a call to support a person who is in palliative care. If this is the case, it’s necessary to switch gears. This can be challenging when the “treat and transport” approach shifts to managing symptoms to maintain the patient at home and supporting the family.
What is palliative care?
The World Health Organization has defined a palliative approach to care as addressing the physical, emotional, social and cultural needs of the patient and the family. A palliative care call involves supporting the patient and their family at any point of the disease trajectory, from diagnosis to death and in grief.
Scope of calls
Acute and highly clinical situations can quickly evolve to an end-of-life call. Cardiac arrest where resuscitation is ceased or withheld, or a catastrophic traffic incident can become end-of-life situations requiring the skills outlined in these modules. A call to an impending death from a life-limiting illness may also require more acute interventions such as managing pain or shortness of breath. Most palliative care calls require you to provide reassurance to the family that the patient is comfortable as death approaches.
All of these ideas will be covered in greater detail in the modules that follow.