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From wellness to wholeness

SLH Mar 2023 1

From wellness to wholeness

St Luke’s Hospital launches a Palliative Care Symposium to reinspire compassionate care among individuals, teams and organisations.

Participants at the inaugural Palliative Care Symposium organised by St Luke’s Hospital have gained greater insight into how to practise “compassion as a way of life” and were thankful for the “affirmation in the palliative work we all do”.

The symposium themed “Wellness to Wholeness” was held at One Farrer Hotel on 22 November 2022. About 150 participants from the healthcare and community care sector came together to learn, network and exchange knowledge and experiences in providing whole- person care from an international panel of experts.

Guest-of-Honour A/Prof Kenneth Mak (Director of Medical Services, Ministry of Health, Singapore) in his virtual Opening Address

Grief therapist Ms Liese Groot- Alberts, Asia Pacific Hospice Palliative Care Network & Hospis Malaysia Faculty Member, in her keynote presentation, highlighted compassion as a “deep awareness of the suffering of another, coupled with the desire to relieve it. It is love in action, with the purpose to heal”.

While whole-person compassionate care through caring for the patient’s clinical, social and emotional needs seeks to improve a patient’s overall well-being and health outcomes, spiritual care is an integral aspect that is sometimes overlooked.

In her workshop, registered nurse Ms Joan Marston, Global Ambassador for the International Children’s Palliative Care Network, and Executive Committee of Palliative Care in Humanitarian Aid Situations and Emergencies (PallCHASE) emphasised the need to identify what gives meaning, purpose and joy to patients’ lives, and helping them fulfil basic spiritual needs such as love, faith, hope, integrity and beauty. For most patients, strengthening one’s spirituality can influence key outcomes, such as improved quality of life and better healthcare decisions.

Likewise, the same care should also be extended to healthcare professionals in Singapore, to empower them to better care for patients and meet the care needs of a rapidly ageing population. Acknowledging the increased reports of compassion fatigue and burnout in the sector, Ms Groot-Alberts shared how practices such as setting clear boundaries, having clear and honest communication, making healthy compromises, and being open-minded and flexible can help to build cohesive and supportive relationships for a sustainable care team. She encouraged healthcare workers to continue showing compassion by establishing authentic relationships, practising unconditional acceptance and active listening. By building a trusting relationship with patients and their families, healthcare professionals can better identify care needs and usage of appropriate methods of care, leading to better patient outcomes.

Beyond hospital walls, it is also crucial to provide assistance for those with serious illnesses through a network
of community-based services working collaboratively with the care team. Psychotherapist and medical social worker Dr Katie Eastman, Adjunct Professor of Antioch University, N.E. Graduate School, touched on key elements of compassionate communities, which include care delivery across settings based on a shared plan, and communication between patient, family and caregivers on tracking outcomes. Such methods can increase efficiency and effectiveness, as well as improve coordination
of care.

As Associate Professor Tan Boon Yeow, Chief Executive Officer of St Luke’s Hospital said in his welcome address, “We journey with every individual who comes through our ward till their final days. We see how our patients pass in peace as their final wishes were fulfilled. However, our work to care does not end with patients leaving the ward. We will continue to engage the patients’ loved ones through grief and bereavement support, and memorial service.”
In 2017, St Luke’s Hospital opened its dedicated palliative ward and has since served more than 500 patients, regardless of race, language or religion. Through sharing of experiences and best practices, the symposium hopes to reinspire and reinforce the concept of compassionate care as the bedrock and foundation of the hospital’s capacity to serve.

Photo: St Luke’s Hospital, Getty Images

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