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‘Integrated palliative care matters to everyone’

On Friday 12 November Professor of Palliative Medicine Yvette van der Linden will give her inaugural lecture entitled: ‘Timeless’. How do we spend our time if illness cuts it short? According to Van der Linden much stands to be gained in the area of care during this last phase of life. Among other things, she calls for more attention to palliative medicine in student training.

‘As a healthcare provider you are almost certain to come into contact with people in the last stage of their life,’ says Yvette van der Linden, a radiotherapist-oncologist at the LUMC. ‘We know that patients and their next of kin need to be able to discuss matters relating to the last phase of life, but we also see that healthcare providers don’t always have the time or expertise to do so.’ Embedding palliative care education in doctor and nurses’ training is therefore very important, says Van der Linden. She is also keen to spread the message that as a healthcare provider you don’t have to do everything yourself. ‘Within the Expertise Centre for Palliative Care (EPZ), there is an incredible amount of knowledge and expertise on this topic. We want healthcare providers to know how to find us early on in the treatment process,’ she says.

Crowning glory

Before the inaugural lecture, the EPZ, which Van der Linden is also head of, will celebrate its tenth anniversary with the online symposium ‘Where does the time go?!’ Van der Linden has been involved in the EPZ since its establishment. Its mission is to combine efforts in the field of palliative care within healthcare, teaching and research in order to improve the care given. ‘This chair is the crowning glory of our work. I feel honoured and pleased to be able to personify this role, but ultimately we did this with the whole palliative care consultation team.

‘By integrating palliative care at an early stage, we can mean more for patients and their next of kin.’

In the ten years of the EPZ’s existence, Van der Linden and her colleagues have collected a lot of data on the number of patients referred to the palliative care consultation team and at which stage of the treatment process this was. From 2022 onwards they will discuss this data with the various departments at the LUMC. ‘Based on this information we will discuss how we can take good care of patients together, for instance by referring them to us more often or sooner. By integrating palliative care at an early stage, we can mean more for patients and their next of kin.’

Care partner

Van der Linden believes it is important to begin talking to patients and their loved ones at an early stage about what is going on and what they need. ‘We want to ensure that every patient is asked about their wishes and needs, and that it is clear to them what choices they can make and whom they can discuss these with. It is important that we have multiple specialisms working together as a single care team for the patient.’

‘Patients’ next of kin are an integral part of our care.’

When talking to someone with a life-threatening illness or vulnerability, the main thing is not to forget their next of kin, says Van der Linden. ‘Patients’ next of kin are an integral part of our care. They know the patient best, are a source of information and can act as a care partner for both the healthcare provider and the patient. In addition, it is important that we pay attention to the patient’s next of kin, so that they are able to cope and therefore take better care of the patient.’

More attention

In her inaugural lecture Van der Linden will explore the policy and organisational aspects of palliative medicine. But above all, she wants her audience to remember that integrated palliative care is important to them too. ‘Whether it’s my neighbour or a professor from another discipline, I hope I can open their eyes to palliative care. We all experience what it is to lose loved ones, or that we ourselves become very ill and die. My wish is that in such situations we pay more attention to each other.’

Follow Yvette van Linden’s inaugural lecture live on Friday 12 November from 16:00 via this link.

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