Vital roles

Debbie Kelly's role at Victoria Hospice is kind of like that of the spinal column. Without the  support of the Community Intake Clerk, all of the vital information that must flow from one part of the organization to the other would be lost—but Debbie ensures that patients and their families get the highest quality of care by logging in the history and details of each registered patient's care and condition, whether they are on site at the Victoria Hospice Unit or in the community at large.

Her thorough recording of all things statistical at Victoria Hospice also ensures that the research team can continually improve the level of care for those at the end of life—not just locally, but world-wide, since the research conducted here serves to educate palliative care professionals throughout North America and beyond. She is thrilled to be part of the organization, and has worked with Victoria Hospice for eight years. Would she ever leave for greener pastures? “Never,” she says. “Never ever. It's just a great place to be. I love my job, I love the people I work with.” 

Susan Geyssen, Community Response Coordinator for Victoria Hospice, answers calls each day from both professionals and family members who are caring for the dying in the community. “There is a tremendous amount of support needed to provide end of life care at home,” she explains. “It's not simply non-medicalized or non-hospitalized. Over seventy percent of Canadians say they want to die at home, but then there is the reality of what it means to give care at home. Sometimes the struggle of palliative care is finding a balance between the privilege and honour that we have in doing this work, and how hard the work really is.”

Susan has been with the organization in various roles since 1981, one year after Victoria Hospice was founded. Because of her extensive experience as a palliative care nurse, she brings compassion, empathy, and knowledge to the conversations she has each day. Reassurance or just being heard is often what is needed. “If a family member calls in, it might at first be information-seeking, but I try to listen more for what is underneath, to unravel things to get to the heart of what I can do to help and reassure them.”

As the “person behind the scenes in a play,” Susan says that patients and families never really know the full extent of the effort required to organize these vital services, but is grateful to be part of the delivery system. “The holistic quality of the palliative care philosophy is the part that resonates for me; it's great to work with so many people here who share the same vision, and have such dedication to the work. Each of us doing our little pieces is what makes it all come together in the end.”

As the population ages, the demand for the vital services of care, support, and counselling that Victoria Hospice provides to the dying and their families continues to increase. They are funded in large part through community support, and every donation helps to guarantee accessible, exceptional care for thousands of Victorians each year.

[This article was originally published in the October 2010 edition of Focus Magazine.]

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Quality palliative and end-of-life care for all: Our mission is to enhance the quality of life for those facing life-limiting illness, death and bereavement through patient and family centred care, education, research and advocacy.