September 4, 2023

We are Northern: This is the Advance Care Planning team

Advance Care Planning is a process whereby a person with capacity prepares themselves and their Medical Treatment Decision Maker for a time when the person may lack capacity to make their own decisions, or to communicate those decisions.

Advance Care Planning asks and answers the question “who would speak for you, and would they know what you would want?”

The Northern Health Advance Care Planning (ACP) program supports consumers aged 18 and over throughout the Northern catchment. The team consists of three staff members, A/Prof. Barbara Hays, Clinical Lead, Ella Critchley, Advance Care Planning Program Manager and Karen Overall, Administration Support.

A/Prof. Barbara Hayes has worked at Northern Health with the ACP program for the past 16 years, and over this time has gained experience and knowledge about ACP and related legislation. She has an interest in ethics and law related to end-of-life decision-making and is also involved in a number of research studies related to end-of-life decision-making and care.

Ella Critchley has recently joined the team as the ACP program Manager. Ella is a nurse with extensive experience in gerontology and academia. Her recent research focused on dementia literacy of formal carers working in Residential Aged Care Facilities throughout Australia.

“Since joining Northern Health, I’ve been made to feel exceptionally welcome and look forward to becoming more involved in teaching and in supporting consumers wishing to undertake Advance Care Planning,” says Ms Critchley.

Karen Overall, Administration Support has been with the ACP team for 16 years and brings a broad knowledge of Northern Health and the community to the role. Karen is passionate about ACP and enjoys being part of the team.

The program aim is to increase awareness and knowledge of ACP within Northern Health and the local community. This is done by collaborating with other professionals and already established programs, and the launch of a new program strategy for 2023-26 which includes five priorities:

  • Consumers and Community
  • Program Innovation
  • Education and Research
  • Governance, and
  • Partnerships.

“While we support consumers and healthcare professionals with ACP, we recognise that the best time to initiate it is before an acute event – hence our strong focus on community education,” says Ms Critchley.

This year, ACP education will use a hybrid of face-to-face and online options. The team are planning to develop micro-learning modules for staff to access small, bite-size information on ACP related topics. Their aim is to provide education in a user-friendly, digital format to support point of need and real-time adoption.

On 14 November 2023, the team will be running a one-day Advance Care Planning workshop for Northern Health clinical staff across all disciplines at Bundoora Centre. For those interested, places can be booked on their intranet site.

“We are working with the incredible educators throughout Northern Health and welcome any invitations to speak at meetings, in-services or over a cuppa,” says Ms Critchley.

“We are also on the lookout for new community partnerships in order to support, inform and engage with potential consumers outside Northern Health. If you know of any organisations or can think of some opportunities, please let us know.”

During the pandemic, the team found it challenging to deliver consumer education face-to-face and to facilitate the witnessing of Advance Care Planning documents due to the visiting restrictions. However, they showed resilience during unprecedented times and managed to persevere.

In 2023, the team are looking forward to collaborating with Northern Health healthcare professionals and continuing to work with consumers and community partners to grow knowledge of ACP and patient consent.

“Please do visit our intranet site, and if you’re visiting Bundoora Centre, come and say hi. We are here to support you, so please don’t hesitate to reach out. It would be a pleasure to connect and collaborate!” says Ms Critchley.

Northern Health Advance Care Planning team at the City of Whittlesea Ageing Well 2023 Expo on 20 June. Pictured (L-R): Ella Critchley, Lisa Manago, Oksana Kasapis, Barbara Hayes and Karen Overall.

Pictured in featured image (L-R): Ella Critchley, Program Manager, Advance Care Planning, A/Prof. Barbara Hays, Clinical Lead and Karen Overall, Administration Support.