May 8, 2019
Palliative care for patients and families is a privilege, says nursing alumni
Trish Clark has always been passionate about palliative care. Over the course of her 45-year nursing career, she’s worked in numerous palliative areas from home care to active treatment to hospice and cancer care. She started in the profession with a Mount Royal College Diploma in 1974 and after completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Calgary, decided to do her masters of nursing at UCalgary. She says, “Fortunately for me, it was also the time when the Family Nursing unit was running and I was able to combine the two areas into a focus of 'Caring for Families in Palliative Care.'
“I have always been drawn to clinical work involving seriously ill patients,” says Clark. “Even as a young nurse, I would volunteer to care for those patients. The combination of frontline clinical care and working with families energized me.”
She recently retired from her casual role as a palliative clinical nurse specialist (CNS) with Alberta Health Services (AHS) on the Palliative Care Consult teams but says the role allowed her to be involved in everything from high-tech pain and symptom management to hands-on care at the end-of-life for her patients.
“Being connected with patients and families at this time in their life has been the greatest privilege of my career.”
What’s a memorable experience you had at UCalgary Nursing?
“When I was just finishing my MN, I was part of a team in the Faculty of Nursing who developed the first 'Advances in Palliative Care' course. That course has changed and grown over the years but is still running. I feel the course was and is a way to get nurses involved in the full spectrum of palliative care early in their careers. Over the years it was an opportunity to connect with other colleagues as we formed CNS/physician teams to teach. It was a great way to build a bridge between the bedside and the classroom.”
What most excites you about the future of nursing or changes in the profession?
“Nursing as a profession still has so much more to offer and nurses are going to be able to play a huge role in preventative care. Because my area is palliative care, I don't mean prevention of diseases but rather preventing trips to hospital, helping patients to stay home instead of going into care. I think nurses can play a big role in technology that connects patients’ homes to clinics and physicians.”
Is there a nursing issue you are especially passionate about or you would like to change?
“We still have work to do to help people understand palliative care and what end of life means. I would like to see those topics be moved up the timeline to happen earlier and be part of the discussion before a lot of interventions happen. The palliative service in AHS has worked hard at this for many years but I still see it as one of our major challenges, especially with a rapidly aging population.”
What’s your advice for aspiring nurses?
“Nursing is not just one career, it is dozens of different choices from clinical areas to types of diseases, education and management. There are so many roles to discover over a career."
"Having said that, I have always been drawn to the nurse who cares about the basics, taking the time to feed a patient carefully, giving thorough personal care, and listening to patients and families like they have all the time in the world.”
All through 2019, we'll be highlighting 50 Faces of Nursing and profiling outstanding nursing members in celebration of our 50th anniversary. If you know someone noteworthy (faculty, staff, alum, students, partners, etc.) who you would like us to feature, tell us more with this short online form. For more, visit nursing.ucalgary.ca/50