Through her medical studies Natalie has been exposed to many aspects of the healthcare system, including aged care and disability support. She has embraced her volunteer role at ACPA as a way to make a positive difference to the health and wellbeing of Australians.

Why did you join ACPA as a volunteer community ambassador?

Joining ACPA as a volunteer sounded like a great way to receive training and education in an important, growing area in Australian healthcare, namely advance care planning. As a medical student I feel that my generation can greatly benefit from specialised training in advance care planning, as students and junior doctors are well positioned to introduce advance care planning at key moments in a patient’s journey. These moments can include acute hospitalisations, during routine check-ups in general practice or in aged care.

What kind of activities do you do in your role as a volunteer community ambassador?

Among the most common reasons people call include individuals who would like to start advance care planning but don’t know where to begin, and healthcare professionals who are unsure where to find resources. Many of my activities as a helpline operator include directing people to navigate the internet or posting out physical resources. Often queries are quite straightforward, but people are typically unfamiliar with advance care planning and don’t know where to start. But more people in Australia are starting to recognise the importance of advance care planning, and are eager to learn more.

How has your professional and /or life experience prepared you for your work with ACPA?

Having an understanding of the difficulties in navigating the public healthcare system has helped me tackle practical issues during call enquiries, such as where to lodge advance care plans when there is no centralised system (other than My Health Record). Having previous placements in geriatrics and palliative care also made me appreciate how diverse people’s wishes are for end-of-life care, and why recording individual wishes and preferences is vital.

What makes you a good ACPA volunteer community ambassador?

I am passionate and enthusiastic about advance care planning, advocacy, and patient-centered care, which is often conveyed in conversation with callers.

Having worked in hospitals and clinics previously, I can quickly glean the needs of healthcare professionals who call and which resources they would benefit from the most, whether that is a community presentation, online training, or fact sheets.

What do you enjoy most about being part of the ACPA team?

The enthusiasm from the ACPA team and working with team members who genuinely enjoy their job and believe in what they do, is often contagious.

Volunteer community ambassadors are also very well supported in the team, through ongoing training and news, resources, and close contact. Sometimes we have trickier calls which involve grey legal issues, and I feel very supported knowing that a senior member is never far to help with more complex queries.

What are some of the common questions you receive from people about advance care planning?

One of the most tricky and common questions I receive is how someone can complete advance care planning when they have already lost capacity and the ability to make informed decisions. This emphasises the importance of advance care planning awareness and introducing the concept early on, so that people can have their wishes followed before they become unable to express them.

What have you found to be common myths and misunderstandings about advance care planning?

A common misunderstanding is that completing advance care planning is difficult or takes a lot of time. There are many resources available to help people think about their values and wishes. For those who require further support, healthcare professionals like nursing staff and general practitioners are well placed to help.