Victoria Hospice staff Brianne Ohl, left, Angela Chalmers, right, and Sandi Ogloff, at back, show off their buttons that show a picture of them smiling. Staff has worked hard to maintain the connections with patients despite the barriers of PPE and rigid COVID-19 protocols. (Victoria Hospice Photo)

Victoria Hospice staff Brianne Ohl, left, Angela Chalmers, right, and Sandi Ogloff, at back, show off their buttons that show a picture of them smiling. Staff has worked hard to maintain the connections with patients despite the barriers of PPE and rigid COVID-19 protocols. (Victoria Hospice Photo)

Hospice provides compassion in a time of COVID

Victoria Hospice 40th anniversary on pause during pandemic

The Victoria Hospice should be celebrating 40 years of providing end-of-life care for south Island residents.

It can’t, which means another year of flying under the radar for the staff and volunteers who have made Victoria Hospice a North American leader in the area of palliative care since it started in 1980.

In 2020, $4.7 million of Victoria Hospice’s $9.7 million operating budget came from donations and fundraising. Events such as the eighth annual Cycle of Life Tour (which funds nine Vancouver Island hospice societies) were postponed, as most efforts shifted to dealing with the added protocols COVID-19 has put on the organization.

“We do things through connection, it’s all about connection, and that means at our events. We had great plans to bring together stakeholders and our supporters to celebrate 40 years,” said CEO Kevin Harter. “We keep hoping the restrictions can lighten up so we can do more, unfortunately, it’s not working out these days.”

Hospice’s frontline workers are in line for COVID-19 vaccines too, but that’s still to be sorted and will be many months.

Since April, nurses in the hospice’s facility on the Royal Jubilee Hospital campus have worn a button on their scrubs with a picture of their smiling face. It’s one innovation to help maintain the connection with patients and families that is so key for hospice workers, amid the onset of rigid safety protocols.

READ ALSO: Province funds 15 new beds for end-of-life care in Victoria

“It’s challenging for our staff. They come to work with such passion to care for people, and that passion is designed around having a very person-centered approach,” said Harter. “Families are challenged [too]. They have a loved one at [the final] stage in their life … and visitations are limited. Where there was less structure [for our patients], there is now a lot of structure.”

Victoria Hospice statistics show the number of residents benefitting from end-of-life care. (Victoria Hospice Annual Report)

One of the challenges that hospice faces is an ongoing lack of awareness and misunderstanding in the community. There are a few reasons for that, said hospice bereavement counsellor Marney Thompson.

Thompson first came to the hospice in 1989 to do a practicum as a university student, then as a volunteer, and then as a counsellor. In 2003, Thompson co-authored the book Transitions and Dying in Bereavement, which won an award and had a second edition in 2017. She’s been through all the hospice’s counselling roles, in the community, on the floor, on the mobile palliative response team, and in non-clinical situations as a supervisor and teacher.

Internationally, she believes the palliative care sector still has work to do championing what hospice care really is. Locally, there can be a disconnect because not all who die go through the hospice experience. Those people who do have a loved one got through it, however, become lifelong supporters.

It’s about supporting the family and community around the patient, in addition to supporting the patient in their end of life.

Staff and volunteers of Victoria Hospice in the 1980s.
(Victoria Hospice Photo)

“A lot of the public [only] think of it as a place to go when you’re dying,” Thompson said. “[End of life care] grew out of that desire to have whole-person comfort. Over the decades it’s become more understood and integrated into other areas of health care. It’s interdisciplinary. That’s a given.”

That means that, unlike in the 1980s, or even 2000s, people who come to work at a hospice now have a general understanding of what the care includes, which is a compassionate, interdisciplinary approach of physicians, nurses, and other allies in health. And since it started, Victoria Hospice has been at the forefront of that model.

The concept of end-of-life care was in its infancy in Victoria when the Victoria Hospice Society was born in 1983, a merger of Hospice Victoria and the Victoria Association of the Dying. The latter was a grassroots project started by volunteers in 1978 to develop a new model of care for the dying. When the Ministry of Health recognized the benefits, it deemed the work an essential service.

From the start, hospice’s staff have been leaders in the model of end of life care, a legacy of those pioneer volunteers from the Victoria Association of the Dying. That’s reflected in hospice’s own education and research department.

The education department offers its own courses and also partners with universities, such as the Master Class in Palliative Care, Better Together, which had 430 participants in partnership with University of B.C., and two courses on palliative care pharmacy that drew 90 participants through the University of Victoria.

READ ALSO:Oak Bay doctor retires after 34 years at Victoria Hospice

READ MORE: Mobile palliative care team launches to reach Victoria’s homeless population

“When we go to conferences, we have a strong reputation. People come here to study what we do,” Thompson said.

And yet, it’s a balance for those staff who bring compassion to the job each and every day, she added.

There’s a reason that so many people who have had loved ones come through the hospice remain lifelong supporters and donors, because of their experience with staff.

“It’s meaningful and satisfying work. It’s an environment where the impact of the work is understood and recognized. We care about each other. We spend time checking in on the impact and meaning of the work.”

Last year the provincial government provided funding to bring hospice up to 18 beds. In a normal year hospice has 300 trained volunteers help out, and in 2019-20 it had 63 volunteers put in more than 100 hours.

Hospice also opened the Community Support Centre on Chatterton Way in Royal Oak. It was hospice’s biggest expansion since creating a mobile palliative response team in 1989.

The Community Support Centre has reduced waitlists for bereavement counselling, relieving pressure on the main facility at the Jubilee. It has also helped “fast-track” counselling sessions for residents who have experienced sudden loss.

Since COVID arrived, one-on-one counselling sessions have predominantly happened online but some are in person, when necessary, Harter said.

“Before COVID, we would hear all the time about how our staff are angels, and the amazing job they do taking care of people. Those stories have not stopped.”

Visit victoriahospice.org for more information.

reporter@oakbaynews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sandy Carmichael is a Goldstream Gazette 2021 Local Hero as Seniors’ Champion. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Worker bee returns to volunteer: Sandy Carmichael a fixture at Langford Royal Canadian Legion

Sandy Carmichael is the 2021 recipient of the Seniors’ Champion Award

West Shore Parks and Recreation facilities face a challenging future in terms of funding, due to reduced operations throughout the pandemic. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore Parks and Recreation faces challenging future

West Shore Parks and Recreation Society submits 2021 budget request to owner municipalities

Approximately 100 people gathered in Centennial Square Saturday afternoon to listen to speakers decry COVID-19 restrictions. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Victoria residents protest masks, COVID-19 restrictions

Approximately 100 people gathered in Centennial Square Saturday afternoon

The It’s Critical campaign has raised $5.89 million towards its $7 million goal to expand critical care capacity at Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital. (Black Press Media file photo)
Critical care improvements make the list with Greater Victoria shoppers

Save-On-Foods pledges $300,000 to Victoria Hospitals Foundation’s It’s Critical campaign

Saskatoon resident liajah Pidskalny poses with his bike near the University of Victoria after putting on thousands of kilometres to raise awareness of the overdose and mental health crisis. (Courtesy Iliajah Pidskalny)
Saskatoon cyclist winds up mental health and overdose awareness ride in Victoria

Iliajah Pidskalny braves prairie winter conditions to get word out to communities

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

Most Read