Oh this 1st day of December I’m introducing the last of this years 3 extra special WOW Women. Women who’ve really inspired me to now. You’ve met Dinah Liversidge, Jane Howorth and now please let me introduce Reema Pal. Reema is a Doctor who specialises in Palliative Medicine and is based at Cynthia Spencer Hospice in Northamptonshire. She is also a very special human being. I first met Reema when she explained to my Dad that he was dying. This was Christmas 2009 and what was the most painful thing in my memory was handled so beautifully, it’s something I will never forget. So this very special WOW is a thank you to Reema and to get us talking about a difficult but very real subject. I also hope it brings support to those with sadness at Christmas time.
Reema I am so grateful for you taking the time to answer my questions, I know many fear the words Hospice and Palliative care. How do you describe the work of Cynthia Spencer and what you do as a Dr within the hospice?
Cynthia Spencer Hospice cares for people who are coming to the end of their life, this could mean that patients have 2 or less years to live. The hospice not only looks after those that are dying, but also those that still have time to live their life, and our aim is to improve the quality of their life, through managing distress and symptoms, eg. Pain and sickness, and trying to make this part of their journey more tolerable. Many people leave the hospice and go on to enjoy what time they have left with their loved ones. We work as a team, which also involves a physiotherapist, occupational therapist, family work team and the chaplain. All of whom have a large part to play. There are also people who attend as a day visit to have treatment, such as a blood transfusion.
I oversee on a day-to-day basis, the medical aspect to the care of patients. This also involves coordinating other members of the team who need to be involved, and planning discharge. I also see patients in outpatient clinic and in their homes.
What made you decide to go into Palliative Medicine?
I met a very compassionate palliative medicine consultant during my first year as a newly qualified doctor and he started the ball rolling. I spent a lot of time with patients and their relatives during my initial training, and developed an increasing awareness of how important communication was, particularly towards the end of life. I felt privileged to be part of the care for someone coming to the end of their life and for their families, to allow me to share this precious time with them. I had a lot of support from my non palliative consultant colleagues, who felt this role suited me very well. I decided that this was the career I wished to persue. I have never looked back.
You divide your time between 2 hospices how do you unwind after your busy and emotional days on the wards?
That’s tricky sometimes, particularly when you bond with certain patients or indeed their families. I am an active person, and love the outdoors. If I’m not cycling for hours on my bicycle, I’m cooking! I have a very loving husband who is also a doctor and reminds me that there is life beyond life. I take regular holidays and we aim to see as much of the world as possible.
You’re a young woman of 32, about to have your first child, how wonderful to be bringing new life into the world. Does your work make you reflect on this differently do you think?
Motherhood places a different perspective on life. I do feel that what I do, and who I care for puts a huge influence on what life means and how important it is to take every opportunity in life.
What are you most grateful for right now?
My family and my husband. They have made me who I am today. Without them, my life would be empty.
How do you see your future within palliative care?
I hope to be able to care for all patients, including those that do not have cancer, who are in need of our specialist input. I hope to teach the General Practitioners, and empower them to look after those people who are coming to the end of their life. I would like to see a better integrated service between the hospice, hospital and community. We can do much more.
What positives do you see in your role at the hospice?
I have the opportunity to work both in the hospice and in the community, so I am able to see people in different settings. I have a role in supervising our junior doctors on a daily basis, who rotate to us every 4 months, with am aim to improve their knowledge and skills in palliative medicine. I get to work within a team, who are all very special people, and above all, I have the opportunity to be part of the care in those that have a much shortened life.
If someone faces Palliative care or hospice interventions what can you share to reassure my website guests?
Many patients who enter our services are frightened of what the hospice means. The hospice has changed in the last 5 years, and majority of people who come to the hospice, require control of their symptoms, whether it be physical or psychological. Many patients go home. There are of course people who wish to die at the hospice too. Those that have feared coming in, have found that it is very different to the hospital and not at all what they expected. They wish to come back, should the need arise. People may come in and out on many occasions, depending on how they are. We have a close link to the hospital, and if scans need to be completed, then we can request these. We are an active unit and treat people with antibiotics, etc. if this is required.
Most people who face palliative care will be looked after in the community by their community specialist palliative care nurse, and may not require the hospice services.
I know from being both a visitor and now a volunteer at the hospice that hospices are full of love and support, they can be positive places, they do have humour and they do have hope. Reema is a part of a system of care, there are many professionals and volunteers in hospices around the country. I hope bringing Reema to my blog will get us speaking about end of life care, with less fear.
A heart felt thank you to Reema for her compassion and for being part of a very, very special WOW!