The questioner and mirror
(Oct 2, 2021) After 15 years in palliative care and in the hospice and 30 years as a nurse, Debbie Dolan was selected to lead the Palliative & Supportive Care of Nantucket (PASCON) supported palliative care program at Nantucket Cottage Hospital.
As the new director, Dolan will lead a team of health professionals to care for people with life-threatening illnesses on Nantucket and their families at no cost for physical, psychological and spiritual care.
“I remember being so resistant to the idea of hospice work and thinking, ‘Oh no, I don’t want to,’” Dolan said when asked to do a hospice program in North Central Pennsylvania 15 years ago support for a short time.
“But the first day I was there, I loved it. It was like being hit over the head and realizing that I had found what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. “
“This position is really a gift. It took me 30 years to find that passion and now I am here to give back to the community, hear people’s stories, protect them, respect them and carry on their legacy. It’s an honor.”
For Dolan, joining the organization amid a global pandemic has opened up a number of opportunities that she hopes can benefit from evolving.
“We have seen so much of our lives migrate to online platforms over the past year and it has opened up a new way for us to reach patients and families where they are most comfortable,” she said. “We have created virtual cancer support groups, our clinical psychologist runs regular support groups for carers and bereavement through Zoom, and our clinicians have adapted to virtually meet patients and families.”
While advances in virtual communication have helped facilitate many of the interactions that palliative care has become known for during the pandemic, Dolan believes that his core work is not based on a single medium, but rather on the relationships his staff members have during the were able to build up the congregation throughout the entire period.
“Palliative medicine is about treating serious illnesses. It’s about working with a patient, their family, and their care team so they can achieve their goals and lead the life they’re looking for, ”Dolan said. “Much of this work revolves around face-to-face meetings where a patient lets us into their life and we get to know their values, hopes, and the life they want to live, and then have the difficult conversations about how we can engage our patients where they want to be. “
Regardless of the medium, the central role of palliative care and PASCON revolves around a central principle; ensure that patients are able to plan and live the life they want.
“The goal is always to meet people where they need us, be it in a clinic, here in the hospital or at home, and find out how they want to shape their lives,” said Dolan. “Once we can help a patient answer that, we will be on our way to delivering the kind of high-quality, personalized care that everyone in this community deserves.”
The Palliative and Supportive Care program funded by the Palliative & Supportive Care of Nantucket Foundation operates as a division of Nantucket Cottage Hospital. To learn more about PASCON or the program and its free services, visit pascon.org or call (508) 825-8325.
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