Palliative Care requires a special skill set including compassion, empathy and the ability to keep things in perspective when you are providing care for individuals and families facing an advancing illness. Cheryl Cochrane, an LPN for 13 years, has been working in Palliative Care at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital and Community Care for the past 7 years. When speaking with her, it is clear she has chosen the right path. The care and genuine concern for her patients comes through in her thoughtful responses to questions and the warmth she exudes.
In addition to the medical skills and natural ability to deliver such sensitive care, there is a whole other skill required. Cheryl describes this skill as the combination of both the psychological and social care of those facing end of life which can be challenging to integrate into daily care. Fortunately, Victoria Hospice offers “Psychosocial Care of the Dying and Bereaved”, a highly regarded, 5-day course for practitioners across Canada including LPNs’ RNs, physicians, social workers, occupational therapists, pharmacists and others who wish to expand their patient care toolkit.
Cheryl first took this course 10 years ago when working in a care home with Northern Health but decided it was time for a refresher. She found it easier to integrate the learnings the second time around due to a combination of more work experience under her belt and greater confidence in her own skills and knowledge.
The course covered many areas including how to treat people individually and recognize that their patient’s end of life journey may differ from what the care provider feels is more appropriate. As Cheryl simply stated, “What I envision as a good death may not be what my patient wants and we need to respect and acknowledge that. Our past experiences influence our journey through life and we need to treat our patients with compassion and provide them with the support they require to pass with dignity and on their own terms.”
The course also addresses some topics which can be uncomfortable for the care providers, patients and their families such as sexuality and intimacy. When someone is in Palliative Care for end of life care or short term symptom management, it is too often assumed that the priority needs of those individuals are purely medical and perhaps, for some, spiritual. The course provides carers with the knowledge to have these conversations with their patients and also with their families who may be unaware that they have these needs. Cheryl indicated that they key to addressing any sensitive issue is to be “open, provide a lot of information and listen”.
Cheryl is looking forward to sharing all the new learnings she has garnered from the course with her colleagues and is applying them to her daily practice at NRGH and in the community. Without the Hospital Foundation covering the course fee, she said she would not have been able to afford to take this impactful course in Victoria. The Foundation is proud to support professional education for medical staff so that they can continue to do their best work and provide exceptional care for patients.
Photo: Cheryl is pictured in front of the Palliative Care department’s memorial nook which is lit when a patient has passed.