A day in the life of Sr. Dina Arends

What does your job entail?

I offer holistic, palliative care to our registered patients. My care is focussed on the treatment and management of symptoms associated with my patient’s illnesses. I aim to make my patients as comfortable and pain free as possible in the comfort of their own homes, surrounded by the people that love and care for them. I offer support to the patient and their families. I help to educate them on the illness and I assist with preparing the patient and their family for the end of life process. I also assist with the bereavement process and refer the bereaved family members to our bereavement course that we offer at Hospice.

Describe your average work day?

It’s Monday morning, the sun is shining as I make my way to BOND House. There are 7 professional nurses (sisters) that work at Hospice and being a Monday morning we all start together to handover the patients that had needs over the weekend. We chat about the week ahead. We talk about the meetings that are happening during the week, these are not my favourite as it is hard to sit when there are patients to see. 8:45, the meeting is over and it’s time to get to work.

I do a quick medical inventory check, I am responsible for ordering supplies to ensure that we have enough of everything we need to treat our patients optimally. We were given some 2nd hand medical equipment on Friday, I make sure it works and set it aside for it to be put on the inventory. They also donated leftover nappies, which will make another patient’s life a little easier.

It’s 9:30 as I drive out of the BOND House parking lot in my Hospice Tazz. I work alone mostly, but I will often pick up a Hospice Community Care Worker to join me or sometimes they need my help, as I drive passed the clinic I slow down to see if anyone needs me – not today.
My clinical visits to my patients are to assess their pain, symptoms and holistic needs. I provide medical care if necessary. I check their medication to make sure that they are sufficient and that they are appropriate to the patient and their needs. I see between 6 – 8 patients per day. The average standard patient visit takes half an hour, but a new patient or patients with complicated conditions can take up to an hour or more.

An early referral makes such a difference. I can help prepare the patient and their families while they have time to make their own decisions and usually this helps improve their quality of life. My training in bereavement work so long ago still comes in handy, I am present in their need and they find strength they didn’t know they had.
Best part of my job?

There are a few parts of my job that I love the most and they are; seeing my patients comfortable and at ease with their illness, seeing that my patients are experiencing a good quality of life by managing their symptoms, seeing that their prescribed treatments is effective, the family members are comfortable with the patient’s condition and that they are prepared for the end of life stages and the challenges it will bring.

Worst part of my job?

I find it extremely hard when the patient’s needs are not heard or accepted by the family members and they don’t trust you to make a difference in the patient’s life. The patient and I then experience resistance from the family members. This makes it very difficult as bad family dynamics end up affecting the patient on a social, emotional and spiritual level. Our approach at Hospice is to follow our patient’s needs and wishes and this is what we strive for. Support from the family is fundamental in helping to support an ill patient in a holistic way.

Why did you choose this career?

While working at the clinic in Hornlee I became involved in volunteering for Knysna Sedgefield Hospice in the Hornlee area. I would help to deliver flowers and food parcels to bereaved families with other volunteers in the area and this really touched me. I did the Palliative Care short course offered at our Hospice and then did my certificate course on Palliative Care in PE. While doing the short course here at our Hospice I realised that I was meant to be here, that I ‘belonged’ here. A post opened up and I was approached to work for Knysna Sedgefield Hospice. I have worked here for nearly 19 years now and have never looked back!

How to become a Palliative Care Nurse

Professional nurses can do an “Introduction to Palliative Care” that we run at Knysna Sedgefield Hospice which explains and gives a taste of what palliative care is. If they choose the next steps is a “Short Course in Palliative Care”, accredited by HPCA. Another option is to obtain a diploma in Palliative Care through universities such as UCT. A free Paediatric Palliative Care course can be done online through the ICPCN and the University of Cardiff.

Qualifications needed

You need to be a Professional Nurse with a certificate or diploma in Palliative Care.

Where did you train?

I did my Palliative Care course in 2004 through St Francis Hospice in Port Elizabeth.