Palliative care nurse Duangchan decided to become a nurse after her father was injured in the Vietnam War. She forms strong bonds with her residents and helps them enjoy their time in care — sometimes they even feel like family.
I chose to specialise in palliative care because I believe that people who live in care have the right to be treated very well – they should be supported to enjoy life. I would like to be a part of their life and see that they spend their time at the nursing home as happy as they can.
My motivation to get into nursing was when my father got injured in the Vietnam War. I went to see him in the hospital – at that time, I thought it would be great if I can look after him. After he was discharged from the hospital and we lived together, he always talked about the war and about the nurses who work in the field. I just thought, “Oh, that’s a great job because you can help people when they need it.” That’s why I kept telling myself to go and study to become a nurse. And here I am now, a nurse.
To me, the key quality to become a nurse is to have big commitment. You need to be a person who loves people, wants to give. The thing that you will take is love, from your resident or patient — and you will have that a lot of that, believe me.
Being a nurse I think is a privilege because we are the person people tend to turn to. We are the person who people can ask for advice and help them emotionally and psychologically before they get into the investigation or to see the doctor. When we work, we don't always focus on their physical issues, we have to look after the resident psychologically as well.
The proudest moments of my career as a palliative care nurse would be when I look after the residents who have no family or the family live interstate.
We become their family, their friends – especially for the ones in critical conditions. I believe that they don’t want to be alone in their last minute.
We take turns to look after them and be with them. There was one lady who just passed. She was a war widow. She had no family at all, but when she opened her eyes and saw us, she looked so comfortable. She closed her eyes and went to sleep. So, we took turns to go and stay with her and hold her hand until she passed. I feel that we are the most important for them at that time – to be with them, hold their hand and reassure them that they are not alone. They are okay to go.
The resident gives us advice about how to live our life, because they have a lot of experience.
Working in palliative care is actually not always sad. We have fun. We look after each other. We look after the resident physically and mentally. The resident gives us advice about how to live our life, because they have a lot of experience. They have had many losses. They have experience about being sad, being tough in their life. We go there and think that we know too many things, we know more than them — that's completely wrong. We share our life-to-life experience with each other. So it’s a lot of fun, and interesting. One of the residents that I have used to be a champion of tennis. So I talk to them about tennis — they will tell you everything about John McEnroe.
I decided to study because I needed more experience, more knowledge of how to support my residents. I recommend anyone to come and study at the University of Melbourne. The best takeaway that I have from this course is about learning from experience of others —either from the speaker or from the classmates, that’s very valuable. The other thing is the course coordinator and mentor, they are very, very kind. They reassured me that I'm not alone in this area and reassured me to do professional reflection regularly.
Overall, what I love about palliative nursing is it’s made me feel like I’m doing something very important for the people who need it. It’s the type of job a robot can’t replace.