In healthcare it is important to set clear boundaries in order to care for yourself and your patients in a sustainable fashion. In the practice of palliative care, boundary setting is even more important, as the therapeutic relationship can be very intense and intimate at times. We have to keep in mind that this relationship will likely end soon, with the death of our patient. It can be a difficult balancing act; using your humanity to make important connections with another human being; while at the same time keeping professional distance to protect the both of you.
That being said, it is inevitable that there will be some cases which will hit you harder than others. When a deeper connection has been made, you will feel the loss and grief much more strongly. Informal reflection with your team members and professional supervision have an important role to play in keeping us palliative care providers safe to continue doing the important job that we have to do. We need to remind ourselves that this is a job that not everyone in healthcare can handle. That those of us who chose to work in palliative care, owe it to ourselves and our patients to look after ourselves. We are a precious resource and if we do not take care of ourselves, we will deny our patients and their families the difference that we can make in their lives, and deaths.
After almost ten years of working exclusively in full-time palliative care practice I would like to share a case that reminded me of just how human I am, and how much value I obtain from professional supervision and from sharing with my team members.
I had wanted to learn to paint for many years, and finally found the time to take some classes during my research fellowship year. It was really good fun and I loved it. Unfortunately, my fellowship year soon finished and clinical commitments meant I could no longer attend the classes.
Nevertheless, I decided that I would keep painting, once a week (usually on a Wednesday), just for me. At the end of a busy day, it’s often easier to just slump on the couch and watch some TV. I’ll be honest, sometimes the couch wins. However, I do manage to drag myself out of the house again most Wednesdays, get myself down to the studio for a couple of ours of what I fancifully call my ‘art therapy’ before bed. And when I do, I never regret it.
As you can see, I’m just a beginner and still have a lot to learn about painting. But I love losing myself in the work, just thinking about form and colour – anything other than patients and families and suffering and medicine, or audits or guidelines or research or presentations. I also love heading out and painting outdoors when I can get away.
If you also like painting, or any other form of art – please join us for #PallANZ tweet chat on the 29th, which will be on the topic of “palliative care and the arts”! You can find the details here.
As many of you would know the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons has recently released its expert advisory group Draft Report into discrimination, bullying and harassment in surgery. The results of the report are confronting even if they are unfortunately not altogether surprising.
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Unlike many times in the past – this year I didn’t work a shift on Christmas Eve; or Christmas day, or even New Years. I spent this time with my family. And I turned off my electronic gadgets (well, for the most part)!
I spent quiet time reading. How refreshing it was to have no agenda, and nothing that just had to be done. The only trouble was that, somehow, this felt quite indulgent.
After all, we are trained to care for others – but perhaps not so enlightened on the art of self-care. Is it selfish? Or does genuine care for others perhaps start with yourself? Continue reading →