Young Researcher Awarded for Pioneering Palliative Care Triage Research

Dr Beth Russell, PhD Candidate at Melbourne Medical School, was awarded the prestigious Ian Maddocks Guest Lecture Award at the recent Australian Palliative Care Conference in Adelaide for her pioneering research in palliative care triage.

Demand for specialist palliative care is growing due to an ageing population, earlier integration of palliative care in cancer care, and increasing involvement of palliative care in non-cancer disease. Patients are referred with diverse needs that are difficult to rate and compare. If there is only one bed left in the hospice, or capacity to do just one more home-visit, which patient should be attended to first; the woman who is imminently dying from a major stroke, or the man with metastatic cancer who is having a pain crisis? The man who is gradually deteriorating with heart failure and can no longer walk to the bathroom, or the woman with high needs whose caregiver who isn’t coping?

Through her work as a Palliative Care Physician at St Vincent’s Hospital, Dr Russell, has discovered first-hand the challenges involved in managing waiting lists and the pressing need for an evidence-based, equitable method for palliative care triage. She is undertaking a mixed-method body of research, including a qualitative exploration of the factors clinicians consider when triaging palliative care needs; an international discrete choice experiment to determine the relative importance of each factor, and a validation study of the final world-first triage tool.

Dr Russell is supervised by Prof Jennifer Philip, VCCC Chair of Palliative Medicine and Assoc Prof Vijaya Sundararajan, Epidemiologist and Biostatistician, Department of Medicine, St Vincent’s Hospital.