I came to hospice nursing as a child…

I came to hospice nursing as a child.

A few of my earliest recollections of death include a dead rat and a lovely transparent leaf. I tried to nurse both back to life with no success. When my siblings and I found a dead bird we decided we were not doing well in the healing department and opted for burial.

As a teenager I lived with my aunt Frankie. Frankie, a nurse, was the master family caregiver. During my teens she cared for many family and friends through aging, illness and dying. I learned that death is a part of life.

As a teen and young adult I experienced the death of friends. I learned that even the young die. I learned that people die from cancer, accidents and suicide. (It was later that I realized that people also die over a longer term from chronic progressive life-limiting illness.)

In my twenties my father and my uncle died. My uncle died after months of excruciating pain. My father died with congestion in his lungs, gasping for air.

In the late 1980’s, as the hospice movement spread across North America I began nursing at Victoria Hospice. I saw people struggle with symptoms common and uncommon to the dying process. I learned about symptoms and symptom management. I learned about loss and grief, last days and hours, rituals, transitions and traditions. I learned about people, about families, about communication. I developed a comfort in talking about dying, grief, loss and death.

At hospice I had the incredible blessing of working with a phenomenal team of nurses, physicians, social workers, counselors and volunteers. I learned the value of team. I learned a few challenges of team. With this team I learned the “essentials in hospice palliative care”. And with this team and with the patients I fell in love with hospice palliative care nursing.

From my experiences at hospice I learned that much of the suffering that I had witnessed earlier as a friend and as a family member, could have been prevented if we had integrated hospice palliative care principles, practices and philosophy in their care.

With this love and passion, I came to teaching with a desire to improve care of the dying through excellent education, resources and courses. This is the purpose of Life and Death Matters.

Kath

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