Flinders’ influence has shaped palliative care leader

Maite Uribe (BNg(PreReg) ’12, GradCertPallCare ’17, MNursPrac ’22) — who this year completed a Master of Nursing (Nurse Practitioner) aligned to Flinders University’s End-of-Life and Palliative Care program – says her career has already been full of rewarding experiences, including working in the United States at the height of the pandemic.

Maite Uribe completed a Bachelor of Nursing (Pre-registration) at Flinders University in 2011 and began as a nurse at SA Health’s Royal Adelaide Hospital, later moving into cancer nursing.

“My experience as a cancer nurse sparked my interest in palliative care, to understand how we care for patients at end-of-life,” she says. “I cared for many patients over months or years and when it came to their end-of-life, I felt there were often times we could have done more to ensure the patient was comfortable and their wishes, traditions and cultural needs were met.”

Maite went on to complete a Graduate Certificate in Palliative Care at Flinders in 2017. She was motivated to learn more about the circumstances surrounding patients being introduced to palliative care, their understanding of what was involved, and the holistic, multidisciplinary approach to end-of-life care, so important to patient outcomes.

During her time at SA Health, Maite expanded the health network’s palliative care capabilities with hospital-wide educational workshops and was an integral part of developing the network’s Last Days of Life Pathway, a systematic framework for clinicians to improve the end-of-life care experience for patients and their loved ones, which she and other clinicians rolled out throughout the Country SA Health Networks.

In 2018, after applying for sponsorship through Palliative Care at Flinders University she was delighted to be successful and to be able to continue her studies towards a Master of Nurse Practitioner.

“I am very grateful to Flinders for the sponsorship and the University’s acknowledgment of palliative care as an academic pursuit. As a senior nursing clinician, it was important to me to support my clinical work by broadening my theoretical perspectives. The Master’s degree helped me achieve this goal.”

Maite says she developed a thorough understanding of palliative care and how it can be applied in a modern healthcare setting.

“This included how we can educate patients and their families about its application, including the potential to use a palliative approach whilst continuing systemic, disease-focused therapies.”

In January 2020 Maite was offered the opportunity to move to the United States. She accepted a position specifically developed for her.

“I was the Vice President of Palliative Care for the fifth-largest Hospice and Palliative Care company in the country. We had over 4000 patients at eleven sites in seven states,” Maite says.

Shortly after she arrived, COVID-19 began to sweep across the world. Maite says it did not change the care she and her teams provided.

“A significant part of my role was elevating the clinical acumen with clinicians. I am particularly passionate about this, including education and ‘boots on the ground’ learning. This is demonstrated through truthful, honest conversations and true informed consent whilst meeting patients where they are along their care continuum.”

Maite was grateful for the opportunity to work collaboratively with world leaders in palliative care and is proud of her achievements.

“We developed pathways, protocols and education materials to identify when a patient has reached what is referred to as ‘The Inflection Period’. This means the point in time where a patient’s body no longer has the capacity to recover and restore, when the focus of their care should change to reflect this truth.”

Maite says she is optimistic about the future of palliative care.

“My approach to patient care has, and always will be, treating every person individually. We are all human. It is a privilege to be involved in a patient’s care, being honest and open with people, and acknowledging the fragility of life and a lifetime full of experiences, memories, and stories.

“The future of palliative care is bright. Through a range of innovative projects and growing recognition of its importance, there will be ongoing improvements for all areas of palliative care.”

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