Jayne E. Martin, 2020 Jean Stone Scholar
I am honoured to have been chosen to receive one of the 2020 Jean Stone Scholarships from the Alberta Hospice Palliative Care Association.
On March 2, 2016, I was at home when my husband passed away from a pulmonary embolism, although at the time I did not know what was happening. He was only 62. I found his passing very peaceful.
A few months later, I saw an ad for a course called, “May I Sit with You Awhile,” offered by the Christian Pastoral Caregivers Association (CPCA). I felt a definite calling. After telling my daughter, Amelia, that I was going to take this course, her reply was, “But you are not going to be sitting with dying people, are you?” I said no but I thought to myself that I would like to. Afterwards, I took their companion course, “At Love’s Last Breath.”
I was attending the CPCA AGM, when Rena Richards, Manager of the Chinook Hospice, sat down at my table. By the end of the evening, she pointed to me and said, “You are going to come and volunteer for me.” I said I didn’t have any experience but she said all I needed was a big heart. After applying and taking the Calgary Zone Interagency Hospice Palliative Care Volunteer Education Program, I began volunteering for two hours every Saturday night. In November 2018, I received my layoff notice after working for ENMAX for 31 years. So, I then began to bring baking and serve tea on Thursday afternoons at Chinook Hospice as well. Shortly after taking my palliative training, I was also accepted as a No One Dies Alone (NODA) volunteer with AHS and attended a NODA training session.
Whether it is visiting a hospice patient at the Chinook Hospice, serving tea to a family member, or sitting by someone’s bedside in my NODA role at South Health Campus or Rockyview General Hospital, I always feel better when I leave than when I first arrived.
The most important information I learned from my Hospice and Palliative Care course through Saint Elizabeth Health Career College was how to be with the families and friends of those who are sitting by and watching their loved ones fade away. Before, I didn’t really know how to interact with the families. My previous training taught me all about their loved ones and their journeys but not about them. I learned that they need my presence as much, if not more, than their loved ones. They just need me to be there, to listen, to be their sounding board, to be silent with them, or to hold them. Before, if there were others in the room, I would just quietly leave. Now, it is my hope that I can also provide comfort to those in the process of being left behind, even if it is just to provide them with a glass of water or a cup of tea.
I am very appreciative of being awarded this scholarship and for the educational opportunity it has afforded me. Thank you for all that you are accomplishing. The AHPCA is such a vital organization serving people at the time of their greatest need.
Ambereen Weerahandi, 2020 Jean Stone Scholar
I work as a registered nurse (RN) in an oncology unit in one of the major hospitals in Calgary where I see patients in all phases of their illness trajectory. Over time, I developed a passion for providing palliative care for our end-of-life patients. This kind of care brought me a lot of satisfaction, knowing that I was providing comfort and dignity to both the patients and their families even during such a difficult time.
I wanted to expand my knowledge and experiences of delivering palliative care outside of acute care settings and that’s when I started volunteering at Rosedale Hospice. In less than a year, the pandemic hit, and all volunteer positions were cut. Despite losing my volunteer position, I was offered a casual RN position to fill any gaps in nursing staff that may have been caused by the pandemic. While it has only been a little over six months since I started nursing in a hospice setting, I have learned so much from the staff and the patients. Everyone has been extremely welcoming and eager to help me learn what palliative nursing is all about.
What I find most meaningful about working at Rosedale Hospice is the emphasis placed on the patients as a whole. Having worked in a busy hospital for nearly seven years, I don’t always get the chance to get to know my patients and their families and establish a connection with them. At Rosedale, the focus is really about the patient, who they are, what is important to them, and putting their needs first. Every time I leave work I feel so satisfied that I got to sit down with my patients and talk to them and their families. It makes me so happy to be able to acknowledge these individuals as people and provide respect for them as more than just ‘patients’
I’m currently a graduate student at the University of Calgary in the Faculty of Nursing. My research interest involves the perceptions and experiences of palliative care from individuals with multiple myeloma. I plan to put the scholarship funds towards my tuition/research costs.
While COVID-19 effectively eliminated my volunteer position, it also created an opportunity for me to work as a hospice nurse. I started volunteering in reception and was planning to transition to volunteering with patients. COVID-19 helped me get there faster, and in a way I couldn’t have imagined, but for which am so thankful!