Alberta Health ServicesCovenant HealthUniversity of Alberta

Professional Roles

Occupational Therapist

The occupational therapist (OT) works with patients and families to help them prioritize and engage in activities that are meaningful to them. OTs can assist with providing practical solutions for activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, walking, eating, doing housework, leisure, etc); through activity modifications, adaptations, the provision of helpful equipment, and energy conservation strategies. The OT also has a role in pain control through positioning, pressure relief and relaxation techniques.

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Palliative Care Consultant

Palliative consultants are doctors and nurses with special training in palliative care. The consultants assist family doctors in order to plan care for the patient, can visit a patient in his or her home, hospital, or hospice. They are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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Pharmacist

The pharmacist can give advice on the side effects of the medication, teach the person and the family how to take the medication and what to do if there are side effects, give the doctor advice on how to give the medication, help set up a schedule for taking medications, prepare the medication, and provide ongoing monitoring of all medications.

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Physiotherapist

Physiotherapy supports patients and families going through a difficult transition time to adjust to their functional changes and limitations through mobility learning, and exercises to reach their realistic mobility ability including in bed, on foot and in wheelchair in order to maximize their hope of independence. The treatment focuses on patient’s goals and quality of life, on relief of pain, comfort measures, safe mobility, safe transfer, energy conservation strategies and planning of patient/family-specific meaningful activities with respect for patient’s wishes.

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Psychologist

When faced with a serious illness, patients and family members may have many strong feelings. It is normal to feel stressed, confused, upset, sad, depressed or anxious. A psychologist can help a person to deal with these feelings by providing a safe place for

  • • listening without judging
  • • sharing your hopes
  • • talking about your fears
  • • exploring what is important in life
  • • reducing stress and learning to relax
  • • learning new ways to cope
  • • improving your well-being and quality of life

There is no charge for these services.

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Recreational Therapist

The recreational therapist helps to plan activities of interest to the person and helps with comfort and relaxation.

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Rehabilitation Therapist Assistant

The rehabilitation therapist assistant aids the physiotherapist and occupational therapist to give care to the patient and helps with comfort and relaxation.

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Respiratory Therapist

A respiratory therapist can look after and follow a person who is having breathing problems, advise and teach on the use of oxygen, suctioning and medications to help with breathing and help to get oxygen at home for the person.

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Social Worker

The social worker helps the person and the family deal with the personal and social problems of illness, disability and impending death. The social worker helps by setting up family meetings to discuss hopes and goals, makes referrals to community services (ex: financial help), aids in planning discharges to home, hospice or hospital care, provides support to the person and their family. Before or after death the social worker also helps the family think of ways to take care of themselves and coping with loss and grief.

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Chaplain

A chaplain's role in palliative care is to offer a compassionate presence to patients and families while providing emotional and spiritual care and counsel that respects the person’s belief system. Chaplains are trained to assess for spiritual and emotional needs and a person’s resources for meeting these needs, as he or she journeys with illness and death. Chaplains listen for the heart of a person’s journey. They seek to affirm a person’s worth and wellbeing and help the person reflect on that which brings him/her strength at this time. The chaplain provides support to patients and families of all faiths, traditions and belief systems, as they face grief and loss. They assist those who are seeking meaning in the midst of pain and suffering. Chaplains also facilitate or provide religious/spiritual rituals, such as prayer or end-of- life ceremonies. They network with community faith groups in the provision of religious care as requested by patients.

The chaplain must respect ALL faiths, is caring, sensitive and supportive to people during illness, grief and bereavement and is a good listener who affirms a person's worth.

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Dietician

The dietician's role in palliative care includes doing a nutrition assessment, teaching about diet, helping the person and family to make choices about food and diet supplements. A dietician also helps with such symptoms as problems swallowing, poor appetite, nausea, vomiting and constipation.

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Family Physician

The family doctor is in charge of a person's medical care and works closely with the patient, the patient's family, and the palliative home care. The family doctor needs to have a doctor on call 24 hours a day, make home visits when a person is too sick to leave home, and work with the home care.

The family doctor can ask for a palliative care consult to see the person, admission to a hospice unit, tertiary palliative care unit or an appointment at an outpatient clinic. Home care can assist in finding a family doctor, if need be.

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Music Therapist

Music can enhance the quality of life of patients and families in palliative care. An accredited music therapist can offer supportive counselling along with live or recorded music to help you with:

  • • reducing pain
  • • developing relaxation strategies
  • • experiencing comfort or peace
  • • telling your story (legacy work)
  • • expressing your feelings
  • • connecting with family and friends
  • • experiencing cultural and spiritual support

Children and families are welcome to participate in sessions. No musical experience is necessary. There is no fee for this service.

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Nursing

Nurses work in a variety of roles within the Edmonton Zone Palliative Care Program. Registered nurses (RNs) include front-line nurses in hospice, home care, and the Tertiary Palliative Care Unit, nurse managers, nurse consultants, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and clinical nurse educators.

Nurses in the program have additional education, training, and expertise in palliative care. RNs plan, direct, and coordinate care. Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) collaborate with RNs and other health professionals to provide direct care.

Nurse Managers

RNs who provide leadership to their teams, units, and throughout the program.

Nurse Consultants

Registered nurse consultants have additional training and expertise in palliative care. RN Nurse Consultants work with Physician Consultants to make recommendations to the patient’s primary care physician regarding pain and symptom management, and assess patients for admission to hospice or the TPCU. They consult with patients and families in their homes or hospital settings.

Nurse Practitioners

RNs who practice at an advanced level. Their role is primarily clinical, and they are able to order and interpret diagnostic tests, communicate diagnoses, prescribe pharmaceuticals and perform specific procedures.

Clinical Nurse Specialists

RNs who practice at an advanced level. Their role depends upon the setting, and includes leadership, clinical consultation, education, and research.

Clinical Nurse Educators

RNs whose role is focused on education. They develop, coordinate and provide educational activities.

Unregulated Health Care Provider

Unregulated Health Care Providers include nurses’ aides, personal support workers, health care aids, and home support workers. Unregulated health care providers work under the direction of nurses and in collaboration with the Palliative Care Team to meet the care needs of palliative care patients, including providing personal care and feeding.

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