Today is International Nurses Day: Q&A with palliative care nurse Kellie Bradley

Kellie Bradley

Kellie Bradley works for Palliative Care South East in Melbourne’s southeast. She is employed as a Nurse Consultant for Palliative Aged Care and has postgraduate qualifications in palliative and dementia care. In this role, Kellie looks after clients in the 47 Registered Aged Care Facilities (RACF) throughout Palliative Care South East’s catchment.

IA: What inspired you to become a palliative care nurse, and what motivates you to continue working in this field?

Kellie: Thirty years ago, my grandfather died at home of metastatic bowel cancer with the support of a community palliative care service. At the time I was commencing my Bachelor of Nursing, I remember observing the visiting palliative care nurses and thinking to myself “I want to be a nurse like that!”

I was in awe of the nurses’ interpersonal skills, knowledge, and holistic approach to my grandfather’s care. I have been working as a Specialist Palliative Care nurse for nearly 20 years. What motivates me to continue working in this field, is my passion for palliative care, supporting palliative clients and families in achieving their end-of-life goals of care, advocating for them, and promoting their quality of life. Palliative Care to me is “A Calling.”

IA: What are some of the biggest challenges that palliative care nurses face in Australia, and how do you and your colleagues work to overcome them?


  • Nursing shortages and increased patient need for service.
  • Prioritise patient care and needs.
  • Shortage of trained nurses

IA: How do you think the ageing population in Australia is impacting the demand for palliative care services, and what do you see as the biggest challenges in meeting this demand?

Kellie: Our ageing population is living longer. This means as people age and approach end-of-life care there will be an increasing demand for palliative care services in terms of Inpatient palliative care, Community Palliative Care and Palliative Aged Care. Challenges for meeting this demand from a health service perspective are adequate funding to provide palliative care services, having a workforce of Specialist Palliative Care nurses and appropriate education. Palliative Care is a specialist area of health.

  • 80 per cent of our clients are over 65.
  • Demand for palliative care is expected to increase by 50% by 2035 and to double by 2050.

IA: Given the nursing shortage in Australia, how do you think we can attract and retain more nurses in the palliative care field, and what do you think can be done to support their professional development?

Kellie: Introducing palliative care subjects in the Bachelor of Nursing undergraduate program and Enrolled Nurses’ education would support the sector. Palliative Care should be taught as a core unit and ensure placement in palliative care inpatient and community settings so that nurses are introduced to palliative care early in their careers.

Also, increased availability of postgraduate and short courses in palliative care and palliative aged care

Postgraduate study is expensive and requires a student loan. Making postgraduate studies affordable or free! Increasing the availability of Commonwealth Supported Postgraduate places in palliative care.

Increase in allowance for postgraduate qualifications. Increase in wages. Specialist palliative care nurses are essential and needed to service the increasing needs of Palliative Care clients.

IA: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in pursuing a career in palliative care nursing, and what qualities do you think are essential for success in this field?

  • Completing short courses in Palliative Care or Post Graduate Study.
  • Clinical experience- working in an inpatient unit or for a community palliative care service to gain experience in symptom assessment, symptom intervention, and communicating with palliative clients and grieving families.
  • If a person is new to nursing focus first on developing clinical and assessment skills and gaining an understanding of the foundation of nursing and nursing care.

Qualities: Strong interpersonal and communication skills. Personal attributes such as Empathy and Kindness, collaboration, having the ability to empower palliative clients and their families to live as well as they can until they die.

  • Working in and with a supportive team.
  • Debriefing.
  • Self-care is very important.

IA: What role do you think technology can play in improving palliative care services in Australia, and how do you see it evolving in the future?

Kellie: Technology has an important role to play in improving palliative care services.

The use of telehealth will improve access to palliative care support. We regularly used telehealth to great effect during the COVID lockdowns.

IA: What do you think can be done to improve the public’s understanding of palliative care, and how can we encourage more people to seek out these services when they are needed?

Kellie: Around 75% of Australians will need palliative care before they die but I don’t think most realise this. We spend a lot of time fearing death but most of us won’t die in an accident or from injury, we will make the average life expectancy and get a life-limiting illness and need palliative care. I hope your readers will think about it now.

I think people also need to realise that palliative care is not just end-of-life care, it’s about helping people live well during the time they have left. We don’t only manage pain and symptoms with our clinical team, we also have allied health services that include occupational therapists, and social workers who can help clients navigate Centrelink and link them to other support services, counsellors, spiritual care and art and music therapists. Our community palliative care service also supports the client’s families so it’s really holistic care.

We need to educate the public about palliative care!

IA: How do you balance the emotional demands of working in palliative care with the need to maintain your own emotional and mental well-being?


  • Self-care is very important.
  • Debriefing with colleagues is important.
  • Spending time with my family and friends
  • Work-life balance is essential.
  • Annual Leave
  • Exercise – I love walking my dogs.

IA: What are some of the most rewarding aspects of your work as a palliative care nurse, and how do you stay motivated during challenging times?

Kellie: Providing emotional and clinical support to patients.

Promoting a person’s comfort.

My passion for Palliative Care and ensuring people with a life-limiting illness make the most of their lives when the end is near and get to continue enjoying their favourite past times for as long as possible is my motivation.

IA: Thank you


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