A new helping hand

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been modified from how it originally appeared due to an error.)

Stepping into the shoes of Gerry Farrell, palliative care doctor and founder of the Aberdeen Hospital’s Palliative Care unit, is no easy feat, but after a short time on the job Dr. Anne Kwasnik is showing she has what it takes.

As Farrell expressed his wishes to retire, Kwasnik asked him who would be next to take over the unit and continue the work he has been doing that has turned the Aberdeen Hospital Palliative Care unit into a pioneer in its field. That was nearly all it took for Kwasnik and she soon found herself attending a year of additional training at Dalhousie University and leaving her family practice.

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“We can’t just let this disappear,” she said.

During her time at Dalhousie furthering her training in end of life care, Kwasnik completed a major project on music therapy, something she has carried a passion for into her new position.

“In my studies I found how beneficial music therapy can be,” she said. “I was hoping to enrich the program.”

In order to bring a new program to the unit, Kwasnik needed funding. After researching government funding, she wanted to be sure she had a backup plan, a way to get the funds for the program if she couldn’t get funding from the province.

“By providing music that is patient-preferred you can help pain control,” said Kwasnik as she proceeded to list off other problems music can help patients manage. After coming up with the idea for iPads for patients, Kwasnik is currently working on having the range for the wifi extended so it will be accessible to the unit. Small Bluetooth speakers will also accompany the iPads to help patients hear the music better and to aid as a way to do it that is less isolating than headphones.

“The Aberdeen Palliative Care Foundation Society has offered to help fund the iPads,” said Kwasnik. She said the society has been very open minded with her suggestions of things that can be done for the unit.

“I’m in a very great position,” she said. “Our program has been growing. Across the province, palliative care services have grown about 40 per cent.” She noted that for everyone there is a point where you have to say enough is enough, when treatments are not responding or there are none left to try. That is at the point in which palliative care steps in to make sure the individual is comfortable. Pre-end of life care is also something the unit helps with by speaking to those who have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses.

“It really means care and symptom management. People associate it with death. It doesn’t mean you’re dying, it just means you’re at a stage when current medical cares isn’t working,” she said.

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Heather Brimicombe is a Pictou County native and graduate from the University of King's College in Halifax with a Bachelor of Journalism Honours degree as well as a combined major in Sustainability. She has previously won a Canadian Communities Newspapers award for a multimedia feature and was part of a team nominated for a Canadian Association of Journalism data award in the investigative category. Photography, art, sports and outdoor activities are all hobbies of hers as well as crafting, and baking.