Nurse's story: the pain and challenge caring for dying teen

PALLIATIVE care nurse Jenny Burt can remember how difficult it was losing a 14-year-old patient in her care.

"When I had a 14-year-old son, I had a 14-year-old patient as well, and it was really tough because you could relate to them, and you could relate to that situation," she said.

"And putting yourself in that situation you just don't know how you would manage.

‘CERTAIN SPECIALNESS’: Some of the dedicated palliative care nurses at Lismore’s St Vincent’s Private Hospital, from left, Stefanie Boyd, Natalie Ambrose and Jenny Burt.
‘CERTAIN SPECIALNESS’: Some of the dedicated palliative care nurses at Lismore’s St Vincent’s Private Hospital, from left, Stefanie Boyd, Natalie Ambrose and Jenny Burt. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

"The strength that the families had was just astounding. I just wouldn't have been able to cope."

Palliative care is a particularly demanding area of clinical care, where staff deal regularly with the loss of patients - some of whom have been in care for a long time.

They also have to work with and support family and friends who are facing the loss of a loved one.

Despite its difficulties, it's an area of nursing Ms Burt has been involved in for more than 20 years.

She said it was the combination of gratitude from patients and being able to help families and loved ones through difficult times that had kept her in the job for so long.

"It's the thankfulness of patients," she said. "They're grateful for what you do for them. And being able to be involved in their personal journeys.

"It's an intimate thing being involved with family and friends who are in the process of losing a loved one."

This week, Ms Burt and her colleagues marked Palliative Care Week at St Vincent's Private Hospital, Lismore.

Chief executive officer Steve Brierley said the week recognised the work of palliative care staff, whose jobs required certain personal traits as well as professional qualifications.

"It requires a certain specialness to be with people at such a significant time in their life," he said.

"Palliative care staff also engage closely with the relatives and friends of the patient to help them with their grief and loss.

"(It's) a topic that no-one really wants to talk about as it confronts our own mortality. Palliative Care Week provides an opportunity to bring it into conversation."



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