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The Importance of Teamwork in Pediatric Palliative Care

May 10, 2016

Camara Van Breeman has been with Canuck Place since we opened our doors 20 years ago. She is an Advanced Practice Nurse, specialized in pediatric palliative care. She contributes to the complex clinical care at Canuck Place.

Her passion for pediatric palliative care began long before she came to Canuck Place.

“I think I realized pediatric palliative care was my passion when I worked in Texas with an oncology unit for pediatric patients,” she said. “There was this room at the end of the hall that no one wanted to go into because there was nothing else we could do. What I realized is that there is so much we could do. It may not be chemo or radiation or surgery, but there are many things you can still do when you are facing the reality of not having good news.”

“People think of palliative care as the last weeks or months of life, but what we know is that families that have children with serious illnesses require supportive care all along the journey.”

When Canuck Place began recruiting nurses, Camara was living in Ireland. She applied anyway, interviewed over the phone, and hasn’t looked back since.
Camara prides herself and Canuck Place on emphasising a holistic view of care. Teamwork is crucial on both ends of the equation.

Everyone on the Canuck Place nursing team has co-workers they can lean on. No one is alone.

“You can’t do this on your own,” Camara explained. “There are times when you are triggered differently, when you are exhausted from your own personal things, so working in a team is important.”

Teamwork at Canuck Place also involves the whole family. When it comes to critically-ill children, the challenges and focus of care is never just on the patient. Every step of the journey needs to be centered on the entire family.

“Family-centered care means that we really pay attention relationally with the families we work with,” she said. “We hear what they need, understand them, and work towards what some of their hopes and goals and fears are, what their capacity is, and what some of their challenges are.”

Working in pediatric palliative care comes with a unique set of challenges, but the experience of guiding a family though the unimaginable can make all of those challenges worthwhile.

“It’s not always comfortable,” she said “It’s often not comfortable, but being with families, and sitting with them in that discomfort and transitioning with them through that is helpful.”

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