News

Carolyn Wilkinson Bids Adieu after 8 Years

  • by Kate Bowman
  • March 12, 2024

Carolyn Wilkinson has stepped down from her role as Palliative Care Volunteer Coordinator at Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District after eight years of dedicated service.

Coming from a Project Coordinator role with the Uniting Church, Carolyn took up a position in the research office with Western Sydney Local Health District after the death of her husband in 2012.

This first-hand experience with palliative care combined with wanting to work closer to her home in the Blue Mountains and a desire for a more person-focused role led her to apply for the position of Palliative Care Volunteer Coordinator with Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District.

Starting on a three-month contract, Carolyn thrived in her role as a Palliative Care Volunteer Coordinator, eventually securing a full-time position in August 2017. Her responsibilities primarily centred around community volunteering, with a focus on the Nepean and Hawkesbury areas.

Additionally, Carolyn took on a key role organizing the yearly Palliative Care Conference for the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District, now in its 33rd year, and their annual memorial days.

In 2019, Carolyn collaborated with Kylie Clark from Western Sydney Local Health District to initiate a biography program. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges, leading Carolyn to begin such things as a ‘check-in and chat’ program while working towards the safe return to service of volunteers in 2022.

“I enjoyed that I had quite a bit of face to face interaction in that time, albeit in full PPE and am pleased that Kylie and I were able to do some research with the volunteers presenting a poster at the European Association for Palliative Care and Oceanic Palliative Care Conferences,” said Carolyn.

Carolyn was Co-Convener for the NSW Network of Managers of Palliative Care Volunteers for two years. Together with the organising committees she worked tirelessly to bring to life the 2022 Palliative Care Volunteer Manager Conference in Orange and the Palliative Care Volunteer Conference in Narrabeen in 2023.

Among the many memorable moments, Carolyn shared a poignant story of a young mother with cancer who was running out of time but determined to leave a heartfelt message for her children. Being there with volunteer Claire playing the reverie harp in the background was a touching moment that encapsulated the essence of palliative care.

“It was everything we could all to hold it together. What a privilege to support her courage and resolve to leave some final words for her loved ones. That’s what it’s about, enabling people to have the space to do what they need to do,” said Carolyn.

As a parting message, Carolyn offered valuable wisdom for volunteer managers, stressing the importance of self-care.

“You will never hear more about self-care than when you work in palliative care. To gain whatever support you can, wherever you can, and to look after yourself is the path to sustaining yourself in this role.”

“Palliative care volunteer coordination has a season and if anything we learn in this work it is to end well. I am very grateful for the awareness, opportunity, and particularly depth of relationships that I have enjoyed with volunteers, volunteer coordinators, clients, patients and their families, and colleagues over the past 8 years. I am not the same person I was when I started, ” she said.

Carolyn is moving on to take up a role 3 days per week as the Centre Coordinator at the Leura office of the Cancer Wellness Support Blue Mountains/Nepean.

We wish her all the best.

 

 

 

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