Mildura Base Hospital
Part of Ramsay Health Care


Palliative Nursing a caring profession

Jun 04, 2019

It might be a challenging and difficult job, but Mildura Base Hospital’s Palliative Care Unit nurses know every day their work is making an important difference to patients and their families.

This week is Palliative Care Week. Palliative Care helps people live their life as fully and as comfortably as possible after diagnosis with a life-limiting or terminal illness. It is provided to people of any age who have been told that they have an illness that cannot be cured, such as cancer, motor neurone disease and end-stage kidney or lung disease.

MBH Palliative Care Nurse Unit Manager Tracey Tonkin said the team’s priority was on what was most important to each individual and their family.

“The feedback we have constantly from the community is that Palliative Care is something we do very well here at MBH, and I know that’s due in a large part to the dedication and skill of the people we have,” Ms Tonkin said.

“We’re in a hospital environment, but our Palliative Care rooms are very serene, they have a very peaceful feeling to them, and that takes skill.”

Ms Tonkin said six core staff work within the Palliative Care Team but MBH also works closely with the Peter MacCallum Hospital and other specialist services.

“It’s always the patient and their family who are at the centre of what we do, and we always ask them: ‘What’s important to you?’. That means something different to everyone, but our focus is on what they need in a really tough time,” she said.

Despite the challenges of working in Palliative Care, Ms Tonkin said in her 40-year career, she found it to be one of the most rewarding fields of nursing.

“We’re a close team here simply because this job does ground you, every day. Bad things happen to good people and that’s a reality you feel every day, so you rely on each other to debrief and for support,” she said.

“Our staff are absolutely dedicated to what they do because they love the quality and meaning of the relationship they have with patients and their families.

“We really get to know our patients and the story behind the person we’re caring for, so it’s a very personal field of nursing, but one that our patients and families really appreciate and value.”

Ms Tonkin said donations from community members and families who valued the MBH Palliative Care Service allowed the supply of “comfort care boxes” to families.

“They have things such as diffusers, a soft light, music, a throw rug, some toiletries, a few little comforts, because being there for an ill relative or friend can be enormously difficult and demanding, especially if you don’t have any prior experience with chronic illness or the dying process.

“The boxes are just a small gesture that acknowledges what the carers themselves are going through, and provides a little bit of comfort and support,” she said.