Hospice Is Where My Heart Is
Trish Thorner is a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) at Waipuna Hospice. As a CNS, Trish’s role is all about coordinating a team of nurses and taking triage or emergency phone calls from patients and families. After working in palliative care for 15 years, hospice holds a special place in Trish’s heart, but it hasn’t always been an easy path to follow.
As nurses, we can’t help but feel emotionally connected with our patients, so it can be hard to let the emotions wash away,” says Trish
Sometimes we come to work and we try and leave our personal stuff behind, but that can be hard. Part of my role is learning about the nurses I manage so I can tell when something isn’t going well. Sometimes I just need to take one look at someone, and I know something isn’t quite right.
“Often a simple ‘are you doing okay?’ can cause the tears to well up in their eyes, and I know they need a listening ear.”
To Trish, death is part of life, and hospice care is about going on that journey with our patients and their families.
“To me, hospice care is walking alongside someone, connecting the dots of service to help them live as normally and independently as possible in the time they have left. A hospice journey is a life-limiting journey. It’s a journey that you know will end, and it’s usually short-lived, but we are here to help make it as comfortable as possible. It’s not always easy. As nurses and health professionals we go on that final journey with them.”
“I recall a time when I was helping a patient who was in distress. I was resting my hands on his shoulders with tears running down my face because he was so restless, and we had done everything we could. I remember thinking to myself ‘what more can I do to help?’.”
“Then he sat up and said, ‘but my workshop’, and I just knew he was worried about his tools. I asked his children, and one of his sons turned to him and said “don’t worry dad, your workshop is tidy, the tools are oiled, and the floor is swept. It’s all okay”. The patient then settled, and five minutes later he passed away.”
“It really made me confront my emotions, but in the end, I have to remember we are all humans with our own emotions. For me, helping people find peace is worth it.”
What Trish loves the most about hospice care is the holistic approach, and that our care doesn’t end with the patient, it’s for families too. For Trish, that family care is undeniably important.
“I often find patients have come to terms with their journey, and it’s their loved ones who haven’t. A lot of the time our counselling team will be there to support the family more than the patient themselves.”
Trish has been through that end-of-life journey personally after losing both her parents.
“I looked after both my mum and dad as they went through their cancer journeys, and after both experiences, I needed a break. I couldn’t return to nursing as I knew I wasn’t emotionally ready. But eventually, palliative care called me back.”
“Palliative care is where my heart is,” says Trish. “I just see what a privilege it is to be part of a journey with someone who has a life-limiting illness.”
“When I started out on my hospice journey, I remember thinking ‘wow, this is where I am meant to be’, and that hasn’t changed.”