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Caring for the dying – an inside look at palliative care nursing

Angie Dredge has been drawn to oncology and palliative care nursing since she first started her career at Charring Cross Hospital in London a few decades ago.

Fast forward to 2018 and Angie has been in the role of Director of Nursing – Continuing and Palliative Care, at Peninsula Health since April last year.

“I’ve always gravitated to palliative care even from when I first qualified as it is an area where the patients are very, very special,” explains Angie.

“People say to me it must be very depressing but it really isn’t. You meet the most wonderful carers and the most wonderful patients.”

It is a topic many shy away from discussing, which Angie says there is really no reason for. 

“Some people are nervous around palliative care but it’s actually – death and dying are part of life.”

“Towards the end of their life, people start to look on their life as special and do not take anything for granted.”

Palliative care is a very specialised area of nursing, which goes beyond the physical care of patients, explains Angie.

“If patients have pain spiritually and emotionally you will not be able to control their physical pain. Each facet of their “total pain” needs to be examined, and dealt with individually.”

After working as a district nurse and at a local hospice in Surrey, Angie moved to New Zealand with her family, where she spent the next ten years teaching nursing students and graduates, as well as working in a hospital and community setting.

The experienced nurse has cared for many patients across three countries and remembers them all fondly.

“There was a Maori lady when I was in Christchurch who was an elder in one of the biggest communities on the South Island. She was referred to my service and I got to know her very well,” recalls Angie.

“She was a reader of the Dalai Lama teachings – that was how she was able to deal with her total pain. She was such a fighter and was never self-indulgent in any way shape or form.”

“When I was nursing her I just thought this is what it’s all about – this is a person here who is absolutely inspired, whose family are so supportive and even at this stage she is thinking of others.”

Angie, who is the mother of two adult children and one teenager made the move to Melbourne after the devastating Christchurch earthquakes, and has been here ever since, enjoying the lifestyle on offer in the Bayside area.

After six years at Calvary Health Care Bethlehem, she moved into her current role at Peninsula Health where she looks after sub-acute nursing staff, and the operations of the Golf Links Road site.

“It’s a very big role but I’m enjoying the diversity of it, learning new  things in the rehab space as well as continuing to work in palliative care, which will always be one of my favourite areas even though I’m not supposed to have favourites!”

What is palliative care?

  • Palliative care is care that helps people live their life as fully and as comfortably as possible when living with a life-limiting or terminal illness.
  • Palliative care identifies and treats symptoms which may be physical, emotional, spiritual or social.
  • Peninsula Health has a Palliative Care Unit at its Golf Links Road centre. Peninsula Health has also started a Palliative Care Outpatient Consultancy Service and and has Palliative Care Nurse Consultants at Frankston Hospital.
  • For more information about our Palliative Care Service call (03) 9784 7232.

Jessica Mills