Most people have had some sort of connection with Hospice to varying degrees, but those most directly affected would be the people who work for the organisation. This is Hospice Appeal Week, so Midweek chatted with three people from Hospice Whanganui: Emma Briggs, nurse; Travena White, Clinical Administrator; and Kim Eland, Director Integrated Services, about what they do and how they feel about doing it.
Emma comes from CCU, and she is one of the new faces at Hospice Whanganui, having been there only a couple of months or so.
"I love it: I absolutely love Hospice," she says. "It's the people, the environment, and you're so autonomous, so I can nurse how I want. I can assess people in their own home, see what needs to be treated ... it's not so structured." Emma says that gives her the time she needs to be thorough, however long it takes. "It's all patient-focused. It's about the family and the patients." She has been nursing for about 12 years, having studied at UCOL.
She says it's very different from her role at Whanganui Hospital's Critical Care Unit and she would encourage other nurses to "come and jump on our little waka".
"It's a specialised job and it definitely takes a special sort of person to be a Hospice nurse. You have to be settled with death and with the process and how that looks. It's important that people have nice, peaceful deaths."
She says in her role at Hospice she builds intense relationships quickly, with patients and with their families. "Because you're having these massive conversations, you're asking them really big questions, like, where would you like to die? At home? In Hospice? It can be confronting if you're not used to that communication.
"I'm not fixing anymore: I'm riding with them on their journey, and it's quite amazing to be part of it."
Emma says many people need to have ticked off all their "to do" boxes before they go, and as well as nursing them, her job is to help them achieve things they need to do before passing, like making peace with a family member, for example.
"You'll never get this kind of nursing anywhere else. It's a different kind of nursing," says Emma. "It's fulfilling."
Travena White has been working at Hospice for just over one year.
"I just feel privileged to be working for a fantastic organisation that does so much great work in the community," she says. "I'm humbled.
"They don't just care for the community, they also care for their staff."
Travena worked in the National Enrolments Service Team for the Ministry of Health and worked her way up through the organisation to online services and became 2IC to her team leader. She applied for the position at Hospice because she wanted to really make a difference.
"Hospice is a charity, and I have a passion for charities ... and it's not just a job: it's a privilege to be involved in something that is making such a difference in the community.
"Obviously, I don't have a clinical health background, however, I learn every day and I'm challenged every day. I have been doing a lot of the electronic side of things to get us on board into electronic systems, so I'm feeling privileged they have made me feel responsible enough to take on that role of changing processes."
Like most people working for Hospice Whanganui, a charity that has to find its own funding to operate, Travena knows there are times when she's working off the clock for the good of the organisation. She and all the others working here are okay with that.
One of the many privileges of the job is travelling the road with the clients who use Hospice's services.
"These people have been given a diagnosis, whatever it is, and they have now got no sense of control over a big part of their life. For us to be able to come along and help them get some of that control back and make the right decisions in where you want to be when you pass on, that is returning some of that power they had stolen from them.
"It's a privilege to help create those differences for families."
Travena says she has had endless support from clinical staff to help her understand the medical aspects of her job, no matter how many times she asks the same question. She loves the team collaborative approach to solving problems and the fact that everything is focused on the patient and their family.
"We all have a part to play, and that's what makes the mechanics of this place work."
Kim Eland is part of Hospice Whanganui's management team as Director Integrated Services.
"This is an important place, you know? I think everybody gets that. This is a really valuable, important, meaningful service." She looks outside at the beautiful gardens, lovingly tended by a large team of volunteers every Friday. "It's a privilege for this to be your office space.
"It's good for the well-being of the staff to be in such a nice environment."
Kim started work at Hospice two days before a major lockdown. "I was still getting my IT set up and doing on-line training modules on all the basics, then went home, luckily I had my laptop with me, and it had been set up for remote access, then got a phone call an hour later saying we need to call an emergency meeting. We were here till about 11pm, the management team, trying to pull together a plan. From that point on I was working at the end of my dining room table at home ... recreating a bunch of policies, procedures and protocols and dealing with the Ministry of Health and having fights with them about being able to visit palliative care patients." That was her first battle, convincing the Ministry they should not be bundled with aged care facilities. She had to convince them that Hospice's whole ethos is to make that end of life journey as excellent as possible and if you're taking away that person's ability to be with their nearest and dearest in their last days, then Hospice has failed. "I'm sure they got the same cry from other Hospices around the country, and happily they said, yeah, we get it."
Kim came from the PHO, but before that she managed Jane Winstone Retirement Village for a year. She was there when the first Covid wave of lockdowns and restrictions hit.
"I come from a nursing past, so I am an 'old school' nurse from the UK. I trained as a nurse, then, later, as a midwife." They moved to New Zealand in 1995 where Kim continued to work as a nurse in Wellington until 1999 when she moved out of clinical practice and did a range of jobs in ACC Head Office. "I found, in later years, a desire to get back to the coal face, in some way.
"You never stop being a nurse.
"I heard there was potential for a role coming up in Hospice ... I've always been blessed in that I've managed to get jobs that give me a real sense of value and purpose, something meaningful.
"This role, so far, has delivered in spades, because it really does give you a sense of what you're doing is important, really important, and that fact that we're an underfunded charity organisation that really depends on the community that it's serving gives me all the more incentive to try and do the right thing by that community. I see that in Davene [Hospice Whanganui chief executive] when she says all she wants is to do the right thing for patients and their whanau.
"It's been a challenging few months, because there's been a lot of change and a lot of upheaval, but we're over the hump and heading towards a really good future."
Kim says it's all about what the patient wants.
"We are doing everything we can to make that work, which means all of our staff are working differently, and they've been incredible.
"They have given that patient and their family what they asked for, without compromise.
"What we're doing is important, and that's a good feeling to have."