‘Palliative Care Nursing: A choice I never doubted’- Sr. Hanife MacGamwell

Categories: Featured and People & Places.

Sr Hanife MacGamwell,  is an Oncology-Palliative Care Nurse Specialist who has worked in clinics across the world. She has been working in India for over 25 years with children, adults and their families. Sr MacGamwell is a well known faculty in India in Palliative Care Nursing. She also volunteers with various organizations providing care for children who needs palliative care and for children with special needs.



In life, at some point or another, our inner light begins to flicker and starts fading for reasons bigger than ourselves; and for reasons we may never know…Then, there happens an encounter of some sort, which makes it burst into flames and keeps stoking this fire. When my life carried on with its own agenda and things happened once again, I came to realize that no matter how strong a mind, it needs a nourished soul to be in harmony. When there is harmony, no matter how chaotic it may seem from the outside, it creates this incredible energy to keep going. For me, the clear choice was to return to the country I first visited when I was only seventeen years old and to which I kept returning to each and every year. So forty years after my initial visit, I came to India; a country which is truly a phenomenon and which unfolds in the most amazing ways. When the life we love and the place where we feel safe loves us back and nurtures us and finds a place in our heart, it only unlocks the fullness of a life lived in gratitude while also making one more humble. Then, there is beauty in the disarray, and an incredible peace amidst the chaos. As loving, caring, supportive, wise and humble people become the wind under our wings, impossible things become endless possibilities.

Palliative Care nursing for me is a powerful punch line. A compact, yet a vigorous summary of 43 years of nursing with so much to read between the lines. A profession which found me after i travelled different paths, and which to this day, allows me to join those paths .. A choice I never doubted.

The need for the total care of the person we tend to call a patient, and his or her family becomes clearer and more urgent with each and every passing day. Palliative care nursing can only stand tall when as many different bricks of this profession is put together to last, yet looking easy and simple. This is a huge task; but we start by doing what is necessary, then we do what is possible and suddenly, we are doing the impossible. We are the recipients of myriads of acts of kindness from the patients and many wonderful moments that are priceless. Feeling the warmth of a tiny cheek below a huge dressing, the warmth of the tears on the face, a hug from a handsome teenager with a sweet smile, the beautiful tiny eyes that open and look at me albeit only to say good bye… Still feeling these in my gut, in my heart, in my very being, only makes me believe that I have served well and I strive to do better, to reach out further and always have the blessing and joy of giving comfort, joy and care..

If I can do what I do with more than 80% non-verbal communication, others can do soooo much more. I want all the nurses to always remember that they are braver than they believe, stronger than they seem, smarter than they think. And yes, they can think out of the box very nicely.

There  are  a plethora of issues surrounding the nursing profession; especially in India. Some of these things are so embedded, that to move forward, we need too much effort to go through. Yet, we somehow find the path around them.

Empathy, respect, dignity, quality of life and compassion; words so frequently used, infrequently applied and rarely done routinely. Unfortunate indeed. These feelings need action, the concept of total pain needs consideration, not only with and for the people who are visibly suffering or for those who are at the end of their lives.. These should be the elements that mould our attitudes and actions towards everyone walking in front of us, with us or behind us.

When given a chance, nurses can truly make impossible things happen; they need to be nourished, guided and educated humbly with empathy and respect.

Seems like there are many learning opportunities for nurses, However, which will “fill the pail and which will light a fire” so that meaningful, fulfilling experiences that are to benefit others with work ethics and commitment can continue to happen? Who will help these ‘trained’ nurses to clear the path or successfully navigate the obstacles along the way instead of creating new obstacles.

Antoine Sainte-Exupery said, “If you want to build a boat, do not bring together men and women to give them orders, explain every detail, to tell them where to find everything. If you want to build a boat, awaken in their hearts the desire – an appreciation for the sea”.

This is what we strive to create as we try our outmost by being examples.  Nurturing, mentoring and awakening or reawakening the desire, kindling or rekindling the fires; to be the person, the nurse we can be. ONE NURSE AT A TIME, AND one member of the MDT, essential to assure the quality of NURSING LIFE…. At a time….


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