06 Jul 2022

End of life dignity, respect and compassion is the aim of new appointee to Portlaoise, Tullamore, Naas hospitals

End of Life Coordinator's specialist role to enhance and further develop services at hospitals in Laois, Offaly and Kildare

Portlaoise hospital

MRHP: L-R, Matt Corcoran, Operations Manager; Dolores Fall, Assistant Director of Nursing; Zara Dagg, End of Life Coordinator; and Michael Knowles, General Manager, MRH Portlaois

I commenced my role as End of Life Coordinator in February this year. In this role, I am responsible for leading on, supporting and coordinating all activities associated with end of life care across Midland Regional Hospital Tullamore, Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise and Naas General Hospital.

I aim to ensure a seamless care pathway for patients requiring end of life care across inpatient, community and homecare settings, as well as acute and day services. As the hospitals strive towards full implementation of the Hospice Friendly Hospital’s Quality Standards for End-of-Life Care in Hospitals, I will focus on staff, patients, families and the hospital environment.

I am acutely aware of the importance of ensuring all patients get the right care, at the right time, by the right people and in the right place. I aim to enhance existing good practices in these hospitals, to identify areas for improvement and to enhance the provision of high quality end of life care.

A death can have a far and wide-reaching impact in a family and on a community. As part of our Hospice Friendly Hospitals Programme, our Hospitals aim to ensure every person affected by death is treated with dignity, respect, compassion and understanding.

It can be hard to think and talk about death. While dying and death are universal life experiences, it is also a unique and personal journey for each person.

We think about all those who have died over the last year and the impact this pandemic has had on the way we have had to grieve. As a country, we have had to adapt to restrictions imposed on visiting in hospitals, on the numbers that can attend funerals and support in person from families, friends and loved ones. It has been a challenging year for many.

In order to provide individualised end of life care in our hospitals, healthcare professionals need to know about a patient’s wishes and preferences. We encourage people to think ahead about what they would want or those closest to them in the event of a sudden and unexpected death, or if a patient is diagnosed with a life limiting illness.

Opening these conversations with loved ones can be difficult and emotional. Having these conversations can help loved ones advocate on a patient’s behalf at a time when they are no longer able to do so. It could prevent a loved one wondering if they are making the right decisions.

The Think Ahead campaign by the Irish Hospice Foundation provides information and resources that can assist people in having these difficult conversations and document the decisions reached so that a person’s wishes are heard and adhered to. We want to ensure our patients receive timely information and can make informed decisions.

Our colleagues and specialist palliative care teams focus on managing symptoms, improving quality of life and helping our patients to live as well as possible for as long as possible. It is an honour to share in our patient’s journeys and to make a positive difference at such a profoundly difficult time.

The Midland Regional Hospital Tullamore, Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise and Naas General Hospital are part of the nationwide Hospice Friendly Hospitals programme which was initiated by the Irish Hospice Foundation in 2007. This programme is a strategic approach to improving end of life care in acute hospitals at all levels of the hospital, hospital groups and the HSE nationally.

The dedication and commitment of our local End of Life Care Committees, Friends of the Hospitals and local fundraisers are paramount. It has led to refurbishments and renovations of hospital environments such as mortuaries, patient rooms, family rooms and healing gardens. These areas provide quiet spaces for patients to spend time with loved ones in dignified surroundings, to step away from the busy hospital environment and treasure each other’s company in a peaceful space.

As End of Life Care Coordinator, I aim to support all staff through continued training and development in end of life care. Different disciplines of staff work together as a team to provide care based on patients preferences and cultural, social, psychological, physical and spiritual needs. Our goal is to support our patients and their loved ones to cope with a diagnosis of a terminal illness, with impending grief and loss, with sudden deaths and bereavement. We provide information and resources to support patients on the journey of dying, death and bereavement.

We aim to inspire and support patients, their loved ones, staff and the public to focus on what matters to them and their loved ones, to experience life to the fullest, to treasure the time together and to value that time. Should the time come that a patient or their loved one needs end of life care, quality end-of-life care is central to the care provided in our hospitals. Because our patients matter to us, we want to learn from our service users and value feedback on the end of life care experienced in our hospitals.

I would be delighted to hear from staff of all disciplines, patients, their families and carers, or any other interested individuals, about all matters regarding end of life care and how we can build on the quality of palliative care provision in our hospitals.

I have a background in Nursing in Tallaght University Hospital and Nurse Management in Our Lady’s Hospice and Care Services and St. Brigid’s Hospice, Kildare. I also have a M.Sc. in Palliative Care at Trinity College Dublin.

The Irish Hospice Foundation in partnership with the HSE provide a bereavement support line to all those affected by bereavement (1800 807077).

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