Supporting independence, patient driven decision making, and an introduction to Hospice care are all part of the important work at the Totara Hospice Outpatient Clinic.
For some people living with life-limiting illness in the South Auckland community, the Outpatient Clinic at Totara Hospice has increased their feeling of independence and improved access to care whilst simultaneously debunking myths and providing real insight into what Hospice offers.
The Clinic was set up as a pilot in 2017, thanks in part to community donations and fundraising. The pilot was operated as Totara realised there were many patients with an incurable condition who were still living quite independently with a chronic disease or cancer. They may still be receiving chemotherapy or radiotherapy and just needed some extra input from the Hospice team to enhance their independence. The clinic is a way for the Hospice specialists to work with the patients other clinical teams in the community and services like oncology.
The clinic now runs 5 days a week and so far has seen over 500 patients. It is led by Director of Nursing at Totara Hospice, Kathy Peri and supported by the Community Clinical Manager Samantha Abbott, Senior Nurse Julia Ward and Nurse Practitioner Robyn McCullough amongst others. Kathy says she believes the clinic plays an important role in the services of Hospice, especially when it comes to giving options to patients.
“Patients who are still living independently and who want to have more choices about their care can choose to come to the clinic rather than being seen at home, which was the only other option they had before it was set up.”
She says it is also an opportunity to ‘demystify’ what Hospice is about, as it can be viewed as a ‘final stage’ for a patient, but points out that Hospice offers much more than that.
“A lot of people get a scary feeling that being referred for hospice care means it’s a place they are going to go to die. Hospice does care and support patients and families on death but it is so much more, hospice is about helping people not be so scared and live every moment. So, after an outpatient appointment they’re offered the option of having a walk through our inpatient unit and to look through the Hospice and the surroundings and to see what support they or their family can have. The family quite like that as well because they can come and see what it might mean for them.”
Once a patient has been referred to Totara Hospice and identified as being suitable for the Outpatients Clinic, they visit for a nurse assessment to establish a care plan. “If the nurse feels they might need a multi-disciplinary assessment, meaning they might need a physio assessment and some treatment or a spiritual advisor or counsellor, then the patient can come back and get those treatments provided in the Outpatient Clinic as well,” explains Kathy.
The Outpatient Clinic can provide an on-going treatment plan for patients and, in some cases, patients may be discharged. “I was reading a referral where a patient had treatment from us and had been discharged then had a year of living quite independently and happily at home, doing their own thing and setting their own goals,” says Kathy. “Unfortunately the cancer returned and now they’re needing some more treatment from our Hospice team.”
For Kathy, a key part of the Outpatient Clinic is the fact it is nurse-led, offering the holistic care approach in which the senior nurses specialise.
She says while there aren’t any volunteers involved at the moment, they are hoping to have some to help in future. “Instead of the nurses walking the patients and whanau groups around the Totara Hospice building and surrounds we’ve asked that two or three volunteers be trained to do that for us and we’re looking forward to that.”
The Outpatient Clinic is partially funded from community donations that you our supporters have generously donated, thanks to you this wonderful additional service is now helping our patients and families.
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