Well the first day of the 7th annual Regional Palliative Care Conference was a success, for me, Connie Basina SSM health Palliative Care RN embedded in the oncology clinic. I have not been in my role an entire year yet so I am quite a newbie at this work and wholeheartedly embraced a chance to learn more.
This conference is the first one I have been able to attend, I am so very pleased I made it with the help of the David Weissman scholarship. Without their support I would only be hearing about it from others. So let me say, please PCNOW, continue to offer this generous leg up for folks like me that otherwise would not have made it. That being said, I was asked to share a few bullet points about what I have learned from the conference. I was able to attend both days and have Thursday under my belt. I always learn so much from Toby Campbell. For anyone that has not heard him present, I highly recommend him, his skill in Palliative interactions seems legendary to me, wow, he makes the skills look incredibly easy but I am not that naive. An NP I worked with once said, it is simple but NOT easy, isnt that the truth.
So, I guess the first thing I learned is this truly is a skill. It must be developed, practiced and honed. This is only done by practice and allowing yourself to make mistakes, not beating yourself up if you make a misstep or don’t come across as therapeutic as you had hoped. The patient will help you to know if you are on the right track. Also don’t avoid role playing, as it is a great way to learn. The other “simple” skill is listening, but actively, it is an art, that of listening, I mean really listening. Once you master this skill and get comfortable with silence many other things are much easier.
I also learned a simple statement that might help me open the door for someone, “ Would you like to talk about what this means?” That is powerful, and gentle and shows we aren’t going to shy away from the tough discussions that some patients are needing. That is quite a privilege for me to be a part of that. I also enjoyed the session about mental health in the Palliative setting. I learned about the prevalence of depression and grief in the terminally ill population, and they are not one in the same. I also learned that acceptance is not necessarily the end result of our talks with patients. That may never be and that is okay.
Well, as you could guess, I could go on and on, but I better wrap this up, I need to get to the Friday sessions that start in about an hour. Thanks for listening about my journey!
The final day of the Conference was just as invigorating as the first. We again had amazing speakers and I was surrounded by some of the best practitioners I have ever met. I certainly realize that no matter how long you have been at this type of care we never want to stop learning how to best deliver it!
I learned about the big picture benefits when Palliative care is implemented early from improved symptom management to decreased hospital costs to decreasing hospitalizations all together. Despite how amazing and rewarding Palliative Care is as a specialty there are limited staff resources.
The program also requires care and encouragement to grow. We can as a whole, improve the awareness of Palliative Care through advocacy, cultivating the workforce and engaging in research. We can all foster growth by doing even the smallest things, such as offer for shadowing opportunities to staff interested in how Palliative Care can dove tail with their work and help their patients.
I was also encouraged to hear that Wisconsin gets an “A” for its availability and accessibility to Palliative Care, compared to other states in the Union. My dedication to this growing specialty remains strong and this conference helped to remind me of why.
I have enjoyed the topics offered and feel that what I have learned here will enrich the work I am carrying out here at SSM Oncology. Thanks to PCNOW for making this opportunity happen for me. Hope to see you next year!