“Use the good cutlery and wear the good dress”
by Rhonda Massad
In celebration of nurse’s week, last Wednesday, The Suburban caught up with nurses at West Island Palliative Care Residence (WIPCR) to get a first hand view of what it is to take care of patients in the last days of their lives.
Each week volunteers help the kitchen staff at WIPCR prepare a barbecue lunch for patients, families, nurses, staff and visitors. On a gorgeous spring day in the WIPCR gardens, a table filled with nurses took time out of their busy day to explain why they do what they do and why they wouldn’t give it up for anything.
Leslie who has been working at WIPCR since the opening 13 years ago explained on behalf of the group that providing support to the patient and family in their final days is life affirming.
“I see this as the circle of life,” she said, “there are certain patients that touch you more and you become attached, but it is privilege to be able to work with people in their final days.”
Trish, who grew up volunteering at WIPCR, was fresh out of nursing school clocking her first week at WIPCR. Contrary to her nursing experience in the hospital environment, she found the pace at WIPCR less chaotic than in the hospital where the mission is to save lives.
“We are able to give more attention to the patients and the families,” Trish pondered, “I have time to know how the patient is feeling and what I can do for them.”
“If you found death scary it would be different,” nurse Mary Ellen added “but our work is about compassion. We relate to our patients, if we feel like we have supported them and given them good life closure, good symptom management, listening, presence and responsiveness to them when they die we feel good for them and their family who get a good sense of closure.”
The general consensus among the group was that their work is affirming and their experiences are brought home to their personal lives giving them a different outlook. They learn not to sweat the small stuff as much as possible but they still do because they are human. Working in palliative care teaches them to cherish the people in their lives because none of us knows what the future holds.
“All we have is today. Patients show us how to live to the last moment.” they all agreed.