Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Pallimed Roundup: The Best Advice

The editors of Pallimed are proud to announce a new editorial feature: Pallimed Roundup. In these articles we will publish a collection of quotes culled from palliative care professionals around the world.

Looking back on the early days in your hospice and palliative career, what is the best advice you received?


“Best advice - find a mentor and be a mentor!”
– Shirley Otis-Green, MSW, MA, ACSW, LCSW, OSW-C
Twitter: @sotisgreen

Learn from your patients...

“Thinking back to all of the wonderful mentors I had over the years, I always go back to my very best mentors---patients and their caregivers!

Early in my hospice and palliative nursing career, I cared for a young woman, 'Mary,' in the final days of her advanced cancer. During the time she spent as an inpatient on our palliative care service, Mary's husband, and often other family, remained at her bedside continuously.   Each morning as I 'rounded' to assess Mary's status, comfort, and answer questions regarding goals of care, I observed, and felt, the growing sadness and realization of this family as they experienced imminent loss and struggled to say goodbye.

Following Mary's death, as I was saying my own goodbye to her husband and family, he said, 'We want to thank you for giving us such hope.'

I was taken aback as I mentally reviewed our palliative plan of care as it focused on the management of Mary's symptoms associated with her illness and approaching death--not 'hope.'

He then went on to say, 'You gave us hope that Mary could feel better, even as her cancer progressed. You gave us hope that she would be kept comfortable, that she would not struggle. That became our hope too. Thank you.'

Lesson learned: Palliative care provides hope. The best advice I received, thankfully, very early in my career."

- Jane Sidwell, MSW, RN-FPCN
Twitter: @janecarols

Take care of yourself...

“I was in a dark place during my clinical training when a trusted mentor told me: 'You cannot give what you do not have.' This helped me to see the importance of establishing good self-care rituals like journaling, retreats, and letting go at the end of every work day. I can't imagine how I would have sustained any kind of quality spiritual care without this compassionate advice at a key time in my formation. It helped me to see that self-care is what enables me to provide quality care.”

- Rev. Will Grinstead, MDiv, ThM
Twitter: @GrinsteadWill

Set boundaries...

“This may sound strange, but it was actually before I became a HPM professional, but was working as a volunteer at a facility for people dying with AIDS who had no other place - this was in the mid-90's so people were dying fairly regularly. A wise hospice nurse said to me 'just because someone is dying, doesn't mean they get to be [a jerk].' Hopefully you understand that this was not an invitation to turn one's back on care and compassion, but I do think that it is a way of framing things that really help keep burnout at bay. It helped me reframe and set boundaries. I worked at the VA, and it really helped love, cherish, and not take on the 'stuff' of my patients.”

-Miriam Volpin, RN
Twitter: @marachne

Know your limits...

“Back in 1994 when I was newly hired and the one and only bereavement counselor, I called a few other hospices in an attempt to learn what they offered in bereavement as I tried to figure out how to best ‘grow’ the program. I was frustrated to realize that although all hospices had a bereavement program there was great variation in what was offered and how they provided services. And I became rather overwhelmed with all the possibilities as I talked to others until someone from a hospice in Florida cautioned me ‘You can’t do everything you would like to do, so do the best with what you can do.’ Sounds rather simplistic but it has served me well over the years and it is the same advice I pass along now to others who turn to me for guidance.”

-Patti Anewalt, PhD, LPC, FT
Twitter: @patti_anewalt

Reflect on what it means to see yourself in your patients...

“As I began my seminary fieldwork placement as a student spiritual caregiver in the palliative care unit of a hospital, my supervisor/mentor said to me:

‘Throughout the course of your time in this work, you are going to meet "yourself" in many a patient. After each time that occurs, take the opportunity to explore and reflect on what that means for you – where it touches your life – and how you can use what you learn in that process to assist you in empathizing with and accompanying others during their final days of living. It will teach you, in many different ways, how you can be truly "present" with someone.’

I have never forgotten that advice ... and I am still learning after many years of providing spiritual care in our local hospice.”

- Rev. Ian Smith, BA, STM, Dip.
Twitter: @RevIanSm

If you have advice you were given that you would like to pass on, please add it to the comments section. Interested in participating in the next Pallimed Roundup? Have ideas for a question? Please contact LizzyMiles@Pallimed.org

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