Pediatric Palliative Care Q&A

Louise Montgomery, Denton, Maryland: I work with Palliative Patients at my center, most of whichare elderly, I have a difficult time with people I have grown attachedto. Please tell me how to help myself as well as other staff withgrieving.

Answer: We have tried to address caregiver suffering in several ways at theChildren's Center. We initiated educational forums in order for staffto build their knowledge, skills and comfort level in providingpalliative care. We also offer bereavement debriefing sessions afterthe death of each patient in order for staff to express their personaland professional responses to the death, and to review ways to supportthemselves and each other. We also offer opportunities formeaning-making which can be healing: an Annual Tribute service to honorpatients and a candle lighting service for staff. Some people find ithelps to develop their own personal rituals, or rituals for a particularunit, such as holding a moment of silence at a staff meeting or making adonation in memory of the patient. Health care professionals facemultiple losses and everyone responds to grief in their own way.Offering a variety of opportunities seems to be an effective way toprovide support.

Scott Jay Regner, Nottingham, Maryland: Very good article, very beautiful and very human. My question is, arethere courses of study and a career path for those who wish to work in thefield of caring for the terminally ill?

Answer: There are many meaningful ways to provide care for the terminally ill.Health care professionals can specialize in palliative or hospice medicine.Counseling programs for social workers, counselors and chaplains wouldoffer courses related to end-of-life care and grief. If you have aparticular interest in working with pediatric patients, child lifespecialists focus specifically on children's development and supportingpatients and families through illness or traumatic injury. Some of thewebsites listed as resources in the article have excellenteducational materials through their sites.

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