Palliative care nurses around the country this week marked Hospice Awareness Week. Ethan Griffiths sits down with three Whanganui healthcare workers to find out the importance of end-of-life care.
Hospice Whanganui nurse Lynlee Black was just 17 and working in a rest home when she held her first patient as they died.
That experience shaped her passion for caring for those at the very end of their lives, leading to her career and a dedication that those at their most vulnerable receive the very best care.
Black has been a nurse with Hospice Whanganui for four years this week, moving into the role after spending time working in a hospital and an aged-care facility.
"I found that end-of-life care was my passion. I found I really enjoyed being there for the patients, the family, to let them share stories and help them feel comfortable," she said.
"You share so much more with the patients here than you do in the hospital. Here you have time to make a difference, make an impression and make lasting memories."
It was a sentiment shared by nurse Jess Webb, who was given a placement with the hospice at the end of her study 12 years ago and has been there ever since.
"I think people would imagine it's a depressing job where you're so sad all the time. Actually, we're not sad. You have times when you're sad, but you know that you're making an impact on people's lives - it's a rewarding job."
The two nurses work alongside Mary Conway, a healthcare assistant who originally hails from Ireland.
Conway was inspired to work in end-of-life care after witnessing what an impact it could have, during her mother's illness.
"My mother was a patient here. I saw the care and attention that she received, and the pressure taken off me as a family member.
"Just before she died, she said that this would be a nice place for me to work. It turns out she was right."
The three healthcare workers are part of the team of 50 staff, many of them part-timers, who assist the day-to-day operations of the Virginia Rd facility, as well as the community care the organisation provides.
The organisation runs on an annual operating budget of around $3 million, with just under half of that funded by the Government.
The remainder has to be raised - by way of personal donations, bequests and the revenue collected from the three hospice charity shops across the city.
Chief executive Davene Vroon said people often assumed the work of the organisation was simply within the walls of the inpatient unit, but it extended much further into the community.
"We actually only have five rooms here, so by far the majority of the work we do is out in the community," she said.
"Our nurses, doctors, pharmacists and social workers are out in the community every day. We have far more staff on a given day out there than within the inpatient facility."
Vroon said the work of the organisation often went unnoticed. Members of the public only really interacted with them when they or a member of their family were put in an end-of-life situation.
"It's not the sort of place that people come to unless they have to, and I guess we just want to share the work we do, and how we connect with members of our community every day.
"Public support gives us the ability to do what we do, and it's a huge part of our work.
"We could not run this service without our community, our businesses and our partnerships. It's essential."
For further information on how to make a donation or to make one online, visit www.hospicewhanganui.org.nz/donate.