Resthaven Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner, Peter Jenkin, says that ‘flexibility and empathy are just as important as technical skills when it comes to providing good end of life care’.
Peter, who has worked as a Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner at Resthaven for almost nine years, reflects on several occurrences in the early 1990s, which steered the direction of his career toward palliative care.
He says, ‘I was working in the emergency department at Flinders Medical Centre, and also working after-hours as a volunteer ambulance officer.’
‘A move to the oncology ward led me to reflect on the futility of burdensome treatments being offered to many patients with advanced, incurable malignancies, often with little discussion regarding goals of care.’
‘I was also fortunate to meet the early pioneers of palliative care in the South of Adelaide, as they gently infiltrated their philosophy of care into the fabric of the health system.’
‘Finally, I attended a lecture about death and dying by physiotherapist turned Buddhist monk, Ven Pende Hawter, founder of Karuna Hospice.’
‘Soon after that, I made the move away from shift work to begin a new role as palliative care nurse with RDNS in metropolitan Adelaide and throughout the Adelaide Hills.’
‘Humbling and so very rewarding, this role showed me the possibilities of being to be able to help someone with a terminal illness live as fully as possible until they die, whilst also supporting their family.’
‘Since then, I’ve worked as a researcher, began a PhD, started a consultancy business teaching palliative care to aged care workers, and became a Nurse Consultant at Southern Adelaide Palliative Services.’
Peter has also completed post-graduate Masters Degrees in primary health care/palliative care and nurse practitioner studies, and helped to develop the Palliative Approach Toolkit for Residential Aged Care, which was rolled out nationally by the Australian Government from 2012-2015.
‘I am particularly grateful to Resthaven, for choosing to offer me the ability to blaze a trail as the first Australian palliative care nurse practitioner employed by an aged care provider.’
‘These almost nine years have been the highlight of my career.’ Peter received the prestigious ‘Excellence in Palliative Care in an Aged Care Setting’ award at the Palliative Care Australia National Awards in 2017.
‘In this, the International Year of the Nurse, the community is increasingly aware that the art of nursing is fundamental to health and aged care, especially during the current pandemic, a crisis like no other in our lifetime.’
‘The relationships we enter into with the people we care for, and their families, is what drives us to continue to work to increase the recognition that palliative care is everyone’s business.’
Peter and the Resthaven clinical services team supports Resthaven residents, clients, and their families through the palliative care process, supporting older people with terminal illness to have a good death, and ensuring that their end of life wishes and individual choices are nurtured and respected.