Palliative care nurse practitioner a welcome addition to Manitoulin’s health care team

Susan Robinson

MANITOULIN––A new palliative care nurse practitioner has been hired by the home care branch of the Northeast Local Health Integration Network (NE LHIN) and has begun the process of meeting with organizations and clinicians from across the Island.

Susan Robinson is a palliative care nurse practitioner with over 20 years experience, six of those with Community Care Access Centre (CCAC). Her role is to provide symptom management and to work with patients and caregivers in goals of care planning for those patients who wish to continue living in the community throughout their end of life journey. Ms. Robinson will work in collaboration with all members of the patient’s existing health care team.

“I work one on one with patients and their families,” said Ms. Robinson. “It builds an intimacy with families and improves quality of life for the patient. I’ve been doing rounds with doctors. It makes me visible and if there’s a patient in the hospital, when they go home there’s a continuity of care. Early involvement, when you know the patient and their values and goals, helps improve outcomes for patients.”

Ms. Robinson explained the collaborative team approach taken by health care providers on the Island. “My role is to complement that of primary care providers in whatever concept the care will take, whether it’s home care visits, symptom management or just to answer questions in a consulting role. Care will look different everywhere. I’ll work with existing systems and just fine tune how it will work for me. That’s why I’m going to meet everyone.”

Ms. Robinson has visited the hospitals, met with the family health teams and has been meeting pharmacists as she visits the various communities. “All the primary care providers are on board and are happy to have additional help,” she said.

Derek Graham, chief executive officer of Manitoulin Health Centre, is impressed with her approach and with what she has accomplished so far. “We’ve certainly connected,” said Mr. Graham. “She is looking to be as integrated into the community as she can, to work cooperatively with other health care providers.”

“It’s obvious that palliative care needs to be a part of the service that’s available across our geographic region. It needs to be done in a home setting. More people want to be at home and surrounded by loved ones,” he continued. “Of course, palliative care is available with nursing home, hospital and hospice settings as well. It’s tough in a rural environment to make sure that can happen. It’s the most challenging with a home environment. It’s challenging for an individual to cover that need across our communities so she will work cooperatively and augment that.”

Because of geography Manitoulin was under serviced, so this position was funded and helps with system integration. There are five other palliative care nurse practitioners within the NE LHIN, all certified in palliative care by the Canadian Nurses Association. They have also completed many courses, attended lots of conferences and networked with other care providers. “It really helped to strengthen us in the beginning,” said Ms. Robinson. “We’re all LEAP facilitators as well (The Pallium Project- Learning Essential Approaches to Palliative and End-of-Life) through the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association.”

“Most people want to die at home and can’t,” said Ms. Robinson. “It’s difficult here because we’re lacking service providers for home support for families.”

She feels one of the things she’s doing is “bringing a lens. I spent a year and a half in long term care but I really missed the relationships you develop in a home setting. Long term care is not part of this mandate. Our focus is rural community. I also worked at Noojmowin Teg Health Centre about nine years ago. It helped me to know how the health system works on the Island.”

“The hospice team has really accomplished good things,” she continued. “We’re trying to keep people in their preferred place for as long as possible but we always have a back up plan. Islanders really help each other to make those things happen for each other.”

Ms. Robinson’s enthusiasm shines through. “This is my dream job in my dream place,” she said.

People who want to access palliative care services on Manitoulin Island directly can self refer by calling 705-310-2222 or 1-800-461-2919. Ms. Robinson’s services can also be accessed by the various health care providers. It is a very simple process, similar to obtaining other home care services.