A physician who specialises in palliative medicine is specifically concerned with the treatment of patients who have a disease for which the prospects of recovery are limited. It is their job to ensure that patients are given the utmost care, pain relief and religious, emotional and social support. A physician in palliative medicine would need to ensure that patients feel comfortable and are put at ease during their final hours, and also, that the needs of family members are catered for both before and after death.

Specialists of this discipline need knowledge of medicine, but what can make a real difference is people skills and a caring attitude. This job would require specialists to work in hospitals, care centres and other regulated areas. You would work as part of a varied specialist team, consisting of doctors, nurses and other medical staff. You would need to be understanding of other medical professionals’ opinions and also be confident enough to give your own insights, all for the best interests of the patient.

Work activities

Typical work activities a specialist in palliative medicine would need to carry out include:

  • Put patients at ease during their final hours and ensure that they are comfortable.
  • Offer pain relief to patients.
  • Ensure that not only patients are made comfortable and offered support, but also their family members.
  • Work with a wide range of medical professionals.
  • Analyse and monitor patient records.
  • Diagnosis and treatment is important but must also be integrated with a supportive attitude.
  • Patients will require psychological and social support.
  • Deal with bereavement on a regular basis.
  • Continue to study throughout your career in order to learn of any new treatments.
  • Be practical about death and ensure that patients know it is a normal process.
  • Diagnose, treat and medicate symptoms as best you can to make the patient as comfortable as possible.

Essential skills

  • Work as an individual and as part of a team of medical professionals.
  • Ensure the patient’s needs are met and that they are as comfortable as possible during their final hours.
  • Excellent communication skills.
  • Strong character in order to cope with sometimes ethical issues.
  • Clinical thinking.
  • Understanding of medical, psychological and religious issues.
  • Able to offer a supportive network to patients and their family.
  • Organised and professional manner.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Good people skills.