Palliative Care NSW Volunteer Support Services Programme
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Best practice for Illawarra and Shoalhaven volunteers

Palliative Care Volunteers from across the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District recently attended an Education Day.

On September 11, over 40 volunteers met in Berry for the opportunity to access the experiences and knowledge of healthcare professions.

Cynzia Dei-Cont and Elanne Thompson – the area’s palliative care Volunteer Coordinators – worked hard to organise the day. They were both grateful for the generosity of the speakers and pleased by the enthusiastic attendance.

Dr Michael Barbato presented Healing in the Face of Death. He emphasised the importance of touch and talking to a person who is dying as research supports that those senses are present even when someone appears to be deeply unconscious.

“Clinicians can address pain and other symptoms but often the greatest pain is what we carry in our heart, volunteers can provide psycho-spiritual support with their gift of being”, said Dr Barbato. He also spoke about the language of dying.

Dr Pippa Blackburn discussed the role of the volunteer in The Landscape of Grief.

“We all grieve differently – there is no schedule for grief and no right or wrong way to grieve”.

Pippa encouraged volunteers to be flexible and open when supporting someone who is grieving.

Padmini Pai gave an overview of the Fit for Frailty program and encouraged volunteers to share its message with clients and their own families and friends. She spoke about recognising our strengths and how to best use them as a Palliative Care volunteer. Padmini also introduced the concept of using a labyrinth to promote mindfulness and wellbeing.

Some observations and comments made by volunteers include:

“Excellent presentations which provided me with lots of assistance in this volunteering”

“Fantastic day – learned a heap and came away pretty much activated”

“I got a lot out of it, it was enlightening and informative. There was so much I could relate to.”

“It was a good summary with practical information and it normalised some of the patients’ experiences. This helps us to support families”

“I learned a lot and was able to deal with some of my own emotions that I’m dealing with. An awareness happened for me”

“A lot about death was demystified. A lot of angst was relieved by a deeper understanding of what people are going through”

Apart from the presentation volunteers said they enjoyed the opportunity to meet Palliative Care volunteers from other areas. All of the attendees indicated that they would like to repeat the event either annually or bi-annually and some topics of interest have been suggested.

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  1. Kim McClintock
    October 30, 2019

    I am living midway between Gerringong and Berry and would very much love to become involved in your Volunteer program. I had some previous experience at Greenwich Hospital helping out the Art therapist a number of years ago.
    Look forward to hearing from you,
    Kim McClintock

    • Kate Bowman
      October 31, 2019

      Hi Kim,
      So glad to hear you are interested in volunteering. I have passed your email address on to the Volunteer Manager in your area. I’m not sure when their next volunteer intake will be but I have asked them to get in touch with you with more information.
      Kind regards,
      Kate Bowman


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