Why did you join ACPA as a volunteer community ambassador?
The prospect of interacting with people to assist them in clarifying their healthcare wishes at a vulnerable time in their lives attracted me to join ACPA as a volunteer community ambassador.
What kind of activities do you do in your role as a volunteer community ambassador?
I undertake advance care planning education sessions to a diverse range of community groups and health professional groups.
I also assist in operating the ACPA telephone advisory service which provides information and resources for people living in the community and for health professionals across Australia.
I provide feedback (to ACPA) from interacting with both community and health professional groups regarding barriers to advance care planning so that our program can better meet their needs.
What did you do professionally before volunteering with ACPA?
I have a healthcare background in operating theatre nursing spanning many years. I’ve worked in both public and private sectors in Melbourne and interstate.
How has your professional and /or life experience prepared you for your work with ACPA?
My healthcare background has given me a fairly good understanding of the complexities of our healthcare system. I certainly appreciate just how lucky we are as consumers to live in the “lucky country” and be able to access such a system. I have a reasonably good understanding of the way the system functions, the limits of that system and what medical science can achieve for any of us, as well as what it can’t achieve for us, particularly as we all grow older.
I want to encourage people to “own” their own health; to understand that they have options for treatment and to exercise those options.
What makes you a good ACPA volunteer community ambassador?
I enjoy talking with people both out in the community and at the end of a telephone. I’m conscious that language is a very powerful tool, particularly when speaking about such a sensitive topic for many people. My aim is to demystify advance care planning so that people see it as “something I can do”.
What do you enjoy most about being part of the ACPA team?
I enjoy the camaraderie of working with a group of like-minded people and I appreciate the support that ACPA provide to the volunteers. It makes me feel valued - I think we all need to feel that. I enjoy the challenge of being conversant with the law as it relates to advance care planning...I feel incredibly lucky to be involved in such a dynamic space.
What have you learned in your time with ACPA?
I’ve learnt to appreciate the diversity in people. We’re certainly not all the same. In my role as an advance care planning ambassador I’ve learned to broaden my perspective and try and understand the particular barriers that people may face in approaching advance care planning and to assist them in removing those barriers.
What are some of the common questions you receive from people about advance care planning?
- What are my personal values? I don’t know how to start thinking about them.
- What happens if my family disagree with my wishes? Can they refuse to advocate for my wishes?
- Why would I ever want to refuse treatment?
What have you found to be common myths and misunderstandings about advance care planning?
- Palliative care only makes you live longer. It's only for the last day. It's giving up!
- Advance care planning is euthanasia by another name.
- Death will happen to me. There’s no need or advantage in planning for it. It will just happen and there’s nothing you can do!