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Celebrating palliative care nurses across Queensland

This National Palliative Care Week, we want to share a story that celebrates palliative care nurses across Queensland and highlights the support they provide in what can be a devastating and stressful time, particularly for the families of patients.

Palliative care nurse at The Prince Charles Hospital (TPCH), Susan Mannion has worked in this specialised area of nursing for the last six years.

“It is a great honour and privilege to work closely with patients and their loved ones who are facing the last stages of life,” Susan said.

“As a palliative care nurse, I always strive to provide support and advice to patients to make their day-to-day life as comfortable as possible, so they can enjoy their remaining time making memories with their families.”

Northside resident Trina McLellan knows all too well the heartache that occurs in a palliative care environment, but says the nurses at TPCH made hers and her family’s experience a positive one.

“Losing a family member is never easy, even if they have lived a long and full life,” she said.

“We could not have hoped for a more patient, caring and intuitive clinical crew at TPCH to ease us through the process late last year, when our 97-year-old mother and grandmother succumbed to suspected aspiration pneumonia over a two-day period.”

The family’s experience began in the emergency department late on a Friday morning last November.

“Busy nurses and doctors took great care to be incredibly attentive, supportive but frank about her unlikely prospect of recovery,” Trina said.

“Within a couple of hours, mother was transferred to the Rapid Assessment Medical Surgical  Unit on the floor above, where a palliative care doctor and nurse checked on her soon after, explaining what was unfolding medically to our family and arranging for her to be transferred to a private room in the adjacent Early-assessment Medical Unit (EMU).”

With access to Palliative Care Specialist advice over the weekend if needed, the family were informed that there was no reason for the patient to be moved at that time and that their mother would be seen again on Monday morning.

“The staff ensured a thorough handover was made to the incoming weekend nursing staff, who were also thoughtful, caring and yet never intrusive,” Trina said.

“I am especially grateful that all TPCH personnel who tended to our mother over those two days were kind, gentle and respectful of her.

“Invariably they checked on our welfare as well, whether we’d had enough to eat, had taken a break or had a chance to grab some sleep.

“As mother’s breathing became more laboured late on Saturday morning, they took the time to answer questions about what was happening and did so in terms the family could take in.

“Later on, they brought us a CD player and we played some CDs that mother would have loved.

“During those 30-odd hours in hospital, our mother only roused the once, just for a few moments on the Saturday afternoon, seeming to recognise that her closest family members were gathered there around her.

“There wasn’t enough energy for words, but her eyes showed that recognition.

“All the while, TPCH staff came and went with minimum fuss; comforting and reassuring us while seeing that her level of medication was sufficient to ensure any discomfort was being properly managed.

“In the end, she slipped away at dinnertime on Saturday, just after nurses had given her a sponge bath.

“By that stage, I was the only one still at the hospital, as my older sister was with her family taking a well-earned break. The nursing staff kept a close eye on me until the rest of the family returned, explaining that we could spend as much time as we needed with her.

“You never really know exactly what to expect in such situations, but there is no doubt we received top-class care and support right across those two difficult days. For that, I will be eternally grateful to the lovely people who cared so wonderfully for us all.

“To the EMU Nurse Unit Manager and team, to the palliative care crew and to the emergency department squad, I salute you all. You are good people who made a potentially difficult period less stressful and more bearable.”

Media contact: +61 7 3234 1439

Last updated: 25 May 2017