EXTRA Team Photo

Nova Scotia Health Authority (Nova Scotia)

  • Erin Christian,  Manager, Planning & Development, Primary Health Care, Nova Scotia Health Authority, Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • Crystal Todd, Chief Family Medicine, Western Zone, Nova Scotia Health Authority, New Minas, Nova Scotia
  • Cheryl Tschupruk, Provincial Palliative Care Coordinator, Cancer Care Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Health Authority, Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • Jo-Anne Wentzell, Director, Primary Health Care, Chronic Disease Management, Family Practice (Western Zone), Nova Scotia Health Authority, Berwick, Nova Scotia

Integrating a Palliative Approach in Primary Health Care

Early access to palliative care is shown to improve patient and family outcomes. Primary care providers are often the first and most consistent points of contact in the health system. Their role in palliative care is essential as we move toward collaborative team-based care in the primary health care (PHC) system in Nova Scotia. 

As palliative care evolved into a specialty, primary care providers have cared for individuals requiring palliative care less; therefore, competency and confidence in PHC has decreased. Specialty services are designed to offer expertise to compliment comprehensive and continuous care provided in the health home and is not intended to sustain comprehensive care or address individuals’ needs over time. With all team members working together (primary care, specialties, and community resources) no one person is overburdened and individuals requiring palliative care remain in their familiar health surroundings.

In 2014, the NS Department of Health and Wellness released a provincial palliative care strategy with recommendations guiding the health system toward an integrated model of palliative care rooted in PHC. The IP will use an engagement process with PHC team(s) exhibiting high readiness to change to develop, test, and refine an operational framework to integrate a palliative approach into PHC settings in NS, changing the model for delivering a palliative approach to care. Anticipated outcomes include enhancing access to appropriate care; building capacity in primary care; optimizing existing resources; role clarity in palliative care; and improving patient/family experience, ultimately resulting in quality palliative care for all Nova Scotians.