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The views and opinions expressed in our blog series are those of the authors and are not necessarily supported by CareSearch, Flinders University and/or the Australian Government Department of Health.
I started out my career as an enrolled nurse and after a few short term positions spent 21 years at Ashford Hospital. While I was there and aged about 33, my brother died after a short diagnosis of cancer at age 35 – way too young and with much still to give. He spent a few weeks in Daw House hospice – my introduction to this facility and palliative care. I was so inspired with the way care could be delivered and the compassion with which staff went about their work that I decided then and there that this was the way I wished to work going forward. I learnt that, at that time, there was no hope of employment at Daw House for an enrolled nurse, so decided that I would study to become a registered nurse to realise my desire to work in this field.
Since 2004 I have had the privilege of being the clinical pharmacist at Daw House, a 15-bed hospice based at Repat Hospital, which is in the original homestead built prior to the hospital’s 1942 inception. The first patient came to Daw House in 1988 and the last left in 2017, transferred to the new Laurel Hospice at Flinders Medical Centre.
During the time that I have been with Southern Adelaide Palliative Service, the nature of palliative care has changed enormously.
Palliative Care is active care that aims to relieve suffering and promote comfort when cure is no longer possible. This care provides physical, psychological, social, emotional and spiritual support for patients, families and their friends. The Southern Adelaide Palliative Services (SAPS) is an award winning consultative service providing care for people with a life limiting illness in southern metropolitan Adelaide. Raising funds to support services helps to improve the lives of people affected by life limiting illness and their families. Dying affects us all.
I was appointed as the Clinical Nurse of Daw House in September 2002. I remember my first impressions of the place. As an outsider coming from a brand new hospital I found the aesthetic to be something that required a complete overhaul, but I was greeted by an enthusiastic nurse who said to me, “I know what you are thinking, this place is amazing!”
No, that is not what I was thinking. But I can tell you that within half an hour of commencing my first shift in Daw House I witnessed something that I thought health care had lost. I witnessed holistic patient care like I had never seen before.
In spring each year, postgraduate students from all around Australia leave family and work responsibilities to spend 2 intensive days at Flinders University in Adelaide. These professionals come to interact with peers and facilitators to learn more about communication at the end of life, the topic covered as core in all of our courses.
Communication, the cornerstone of excellent end-of-life care, is that delicate skill that can flourish in the fertile environment of mindful practice and supportive critique.