Kate Reed is a Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner Clinical Advisor, who has worked together with a dedicated team to start the first Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner out-patient clinic. The clinic has been developed in order to help build the NP service to better deliver expert clinical care patients in the community. Kate has previously been in the position of ACNP ACT Chapter Chair for three years and worked with government agencies to increase funding for 39 new NP positions in the ACT in the last four years.
Tell us a little bit about your nursing journey.
When I was about 12 years old, my dad was away and I was home with my mother who had an ear infection and had just been prescribed Bactrim by her GP that day. My mum started scratching at her palms and saying to me she felt strange, I noticed her eye was starting to swell and I started to get really worried and wanted her to call her doctor. I had no idea what was wrong and neither did she. She rang the surgery which had an afterhours service (those were the days!) and her GP who was seeing another patient nearby picked up the page. She told him how she felt and he said he was coming straight over and what was our nearest cross street? I remember her putting down the phone and saying to me, wow he’s being a bit dramatic! By then her lips had started to swell and she was constantly scratching the soles of her feet and hands. I sat her down and thought I was helping by holding her hand and getting a cold towel. By the time I heard the car pull up, Mum was wheezing and holding her chest. The doctor came in with his bag open ready to go and Mum was having trouble breathing so he quickly got a line in and gave her adrenaline and hydrocortisone in respiratory distress as he cannulated her and gave her adrenaline and hydrocortisone. There she was semi-conscious stripped to her waist on the lounge with two cannulas and her doctor with a stethoscope to her chest while telling me to call an ambulance and all I was feeling was sheer relief, someone was here helping us and Mum was going to be okay. I will never forget the magnitude of that experience and years later I believe that it was the catalyst for my wanting to help people and to be there for them like our doctor was for Mum and I.
I completed my Bachelor of Nursing in 1998 in Sydney, and afterwards worked at the Royal North Shore Hospital. During my post-graduate year, I found myself leaning toward Critical Care nursing. I started working at the Intensive Care Unit while undergoing my graduate certificate in ICU. Over the years, I continued to work in the ICU in Australia and overseas and eventually ended up in Canberra as an educator working across several Critical Care areas.
How did you become a Palliative Care NP?
Throughout my nursing career, I have met so many inspiring nurses who were leading the way in their specialty areas but weren’t able to work to their full ability, knowledge and potential. Driven by their leadership, I started to pave my own way, recognising that I wanted to remain as a clinician but wanting to advance my career. The role of Nurse Practitioner was very much a new part of nursing back when I applied for my master’s degree. Over the next few years, I studied while also starting a family, and finally graduated in 2008. After graduating, I recognised that a position for a Critical Care NP was not going to be forthcoming in the next few years, so with some trepidation, I upskilled in Palliative Care. It was then I got my first NP role in Palliative Care in the Home-Based Palliative Care team.
Over the next 8 years, I never looked back. I found my niche in working with critically ill patients and their families/carers who needed complex care plans for symptoms due to disease burden and treatment regimes. My ICU background also has given me a great understanding and knowledge of pathophysiology on which to build around progressive and advance disease states.
Tell us about your current role.
I have recently taken a bit of a scenic change professionally. I am now working for the peak body of Palliative Care in Australia, in a new role as NP Clinical Advisor, to help provide clinical guidance for strategies and policies in the delivery of palliative care in Australia and our region.
My role as a Palliative Care NP Clinical Advisor is a new one for Palliative Care Australia. I am involved in providing clinical advice and guidance on public health policy that forms the basis of health direction and frameworks to ensure equitable and sustainable access of palliative care services for all Australians, no matter where they live.
I find this work incredibly rewarding as I am able to formulate real change for populations. While I miss clinical work, and will pick up clinical hours in 2019, my role has taught me so much about strategic direction, service delivery and high-level policy influencers, and has given me a much wider understanding of the issues that are facing palliative care patients and practitioners. It has also provided me with a platform and networks in which to further pursue issues pertaining to NPs such as prescribing, MBS funding and workforce strategy.
What advice do you have for anyone wanting to become a NP?
Nursing is an incredible profession. It has opened doors and provided me with experiences that no other career would have. I believe that nurses who have the drive to want to do more for their patients and their communities, should explore becoming a NP.
It is very rewarding building a role and setting up a service and seeing the impact that you can have on patient care trajectories and their carers. Being a clinical leader as a NP comes with responsibility and sometimes frustration, but as a critical thinker and specialist in your chosen area, ensures that you can work the problem, sort the solution and follow through.
I am continually inspired by the NPs around me and their ability to meet their goals, that of their patients and the services they work with and it is essential that we continue to work together to build this workforce and ensure that it continues to grow and influence positive health outcomes in Australia.