Compassion leading palliative care experience

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Compassion is at the forefront of palliative care, guiding staff in their approach to those experiencing some of the most challenging moments of their lives.

Clinical Nurse Consultant Samantha Trevaskis knows the importance of ‘showing up’ for her consumers every day, making a world of difference to their ongoing care.

“It's really reassuring for patients to have the continuity of a same face every single day. We go in and see the patients every day and we say ‘we'll see you tomorrow’. There are so many different faces coming in and out of hospital so having that familiar person that you've built a rapport with is really helpful for the patient.”

Working in palliative care has expanded Ms Trevaskis’ understanding of the human condition and the strength of human spirit.

“People engaged in palliative care have been going through so much and you listen to their stories and I think how you are still holding it together for your family and friends. I think the resilience that you see in people is very surprising.

“These stories put things in perspective. Don't sweat the small things and appreciate everyone that you've got around you.”

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In her journey of diving deeper into fully encompassing compassionate care, Palliative Care Nurse Unit Manager Aliesha-Jane Fejgl had to face her own fears and overcome the barrier of discomfort talking about death.

“Working in this field has taught me not to be afraid of death. I really had to face my own existentialism because when I'm talking to other people, I've got to understand my fears. If I'm still fearful of death, then I can't expect other people to meet it and be comfortable with it,” she said.

Engaging in the space of heavy topics and challenging moments in life means it is important to check-in with yourself and with others to ensure the work doesn’t weigh you down.

“Palliative care week is about celebrating each individual that’s part of this workforce, but also the team as a whole. We truly support each other, and that means being present. It means listening with heart and pouring back into each other, and not just to the patients,” Ms Fejgl said.

“It's highly compassion led, we get so fatigued as healthcare workers. You’ve really got to be able to pour into that cup so that you can give it to others.”

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The Hospital Admission Risk Program (HARP) aims to prevent avoidable hospital presentations by working with those clients at risk of, or already experiencing frequent emergency presentations at home.

HARP Ambulatory Care Consult Registrar Jack Wang explains how palliative care is about comfort above all.

“The number one misconception is that palliative care only gets involved with someone who's actually dying. That is only about a third of our job. The other two thirds are about getting involved at the earlier phases of their advanced disease,” he said.

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With early intervention, palliative care can foster better quality of life, despite an ailment. When the time comes to talk about the pointer end of life, Dr Wang’s outlook has evolved since delving into his new area of expertise.

“There's a lot of misunderstanding or misinformation and fear about what happens at the end and people don't want to really target that. My take from doing this job or being involved in the healthcare field is that if you know what the end looks like, or how you can plan the end, then the fear factor reduces drastically. Understanding death allows you to understand how to live fully.”

Palliative Care Week is taking place from 21 - 27 May.