Professor Bridge explores spirituality as a dimension of palliative care

Emeritus Professor Doug Bridge describes himself as one of the ‘old pioneers’ of palliative care in Western Australia, having started the palliative care service at Fremantle Hospital in 1983 and a whirlwind ‘3 week palliative care apprenticeship’ with palliative care physician Derek Doyle in Scotland in 1986. He was the Head of the Palliative Care Service at Royal Perth Hospital for 20 years, retiring in 2013.

On the 3-4 November Doug will facilitate the Exploring the Spiritual Dimensions of Palliative Care at Notre Dame University.

Early palliative care developments in Western Australia were energised after a visit by modern palliative care founder Cicely Saunders at a conference in 1977. State government funding for palliative care services followed soon after with the commencement of a community service in 1982 by the SilverChain nursing service in conjunction with the Cancer Foundation of Western Australia, and Doug’s service at Fremantle  Hospital the following year.

In 2018 Doug received the Australian Medical Association (AMA) WA branch highest medical award for excellence in medicine for his work in palliative care, the Hippocrates Award.

He has also been active in contributing to the voluntary assisted dying debate, writing on Palliative care, euthanasia and physician assisted suicide in MJA InSight (March 2017), an article that was endorsed by 32 other well known palliative care physicians around Australia as co-signatories.

In 2002 Doug gave his first lecture on spirituality and palliative care ‘Dying: A Spiritual Journey’ to a Taiwanese palliative care delegation visiting Perth. The group was impressed with the content, admitting that in Taiwan they did great palliative care, but were not strong on the spiritual dimensions of death and dying. Doug was subsequently invited to Taiwan to train 35 clinicians in palliative care and spirituality, a relationship that continued for many years.

Since then Doug has refined and often delivered a small-group short-course format in spirituality and palliative care.

Although the program is aimed at doctors it is also suited to other clinicians including nurses, social workers and pastoral care workers.

“Spirituality isn’t ethics, it’s not philosophy, it’s not religion – it’s spirituality.”

Within a group of 40-50 people each participants is asked to commit to being part of a smaller group of 3 people over both days. Participants are also asked to complete some pre-reading.

This 2014 article ‘‘Spirituality, Suffering, and Healing’’: A Learning Option for Western Australian Medical Students (in Humanities: Art, Language, and Spirituality in Health Care) [331kb] describes the course history and format in more detail.

The Exploring the Spiritual Dimensions of Palliative Care short course will be held on the Broadway campus of Notre Dame University. Click here for more information and to register.

Pic: Emeritus Professor Douglas Bridge.

Professor Douglas Bridge is an Emeritus consultant at Royal Perth Hospital, clinical professor in the University of Western Australia’s School of Medicine and Pharmacology, a consultant physician with WA Country Health Service, and is past president of the Chapter of Palliative Medicine, Royal Australasian College of Physicians.