A Maori powhiri (welcome) marked the start of the conference. The programme drew a wide range and number of professionals and volunteers from hospices across the country, as well as academics, members of the New Zealand Department of Health, policy makers, local commissioners and a government minister.
The attendance list alone was testament to the place of community and collaboration in hospice care in New Zealand. Heart shaped cushions made by volunteers from one local hospice for all participants reinforced this belief; the opening and closing blessing by local Maori leaders confirmed it.
The three days were filled with a range of presentations, social activities, reflective moments and plenty of laughter and fun.
The theme for the conference was: ‘Community, choice and collaboration.’ These three ideas can be seen as the cornerstones of hospice work, and support the vision on Hospice NZ for good quality care for people who are dying.
The majority of hospices and palliative care services grew from volunteers in the community, who have a desire and vision for good quality care for people who are dying. Today community engagement and involvement remains critical – speakers at the conference explored the meaning of community in the broadest sense, how it impacts on care today and in the future.
At the end of their lives, patients have many choices, including when, where and who will care for them. The conference programme and keynote speakers touched on many of the choices available – reminding delegates how important and empowering it is to be aware of options at the end of life.
Collaboration is essential to ensure the best outcome for patients and their families, everyone involved across all settings must work together. The goal is to ensure that we share the expertise hospices have built up and learn from our colleagues in other settings – such as aged care, primary care, hospital-based care.
After the powerful Maori welcome, Jan Nichols, CEO of North Shore hospice, presented the Sir Roy McKenzie Guest Lecture, setting the scene for delegates around the importance of the values of hospice and how we all need to reflect the diversity of the communities we work with.
The international keynote speaker line up was impressive on paper and in reality – with many commenting on the balance between academic research – Professor Joachim Cohen’s focus on aspects of end of life care from a population perspective and the patient, family and community focus – Dr Heather Richardson speaking about the opportunities hospices have to engage with the communities they serve.
Associate Professor Greg Crawford presented “Music to die for” which injected some culture and rhythm into the conference, and Dr Bruce Rumbold took delegates through his concept of Compassionate Communities exploring structures and processes by which communities can care for members with end of life issues, maintaining their participation in the community.
New Zealand keynote speakers – Ross Drake, Dr Michal Boyd and Kathryn McPherson encouraged hospices to think outside the square in terms of caring for children with a palliative need, collaboration in an aging world, and person-centred care.
This talented line up of keynotes was enhanced by the more than 90 presenters who gave their time and energy in the main conference programme. Several streams were introduced to the programme, notably a non-cancer stream, pharmacy and carers, and a strong emphasis on the topics of spirituality, hope and reflection.
Heather Richardson, clinical director at Help the Hospices, UK, was one of the international delegates attending the conference, and shares her experience with ehospice:
“The programme was diverse, offering something for everyone. Highlights for me included the unexpectedly touching and at times outrageous presentation of “music to die for” from Professor Crawford from Adelaide, Australia, a highly illuminating presentation by Professor Joachim Cohen from Belgium on place and preference of death drawing on data from across the world and Professor Bruce Rumbold’s reflections on the place and challenge of developing compassionate communities to support people who are dying, drawing on his work in Australia.
Some of the talks by local leaders also deserve a place in my list of “top presentations I have heard in 2012 that have challenged my practice”. Kathy McPherson’s presentation on person centred care which drew on her experience of rehabilitation was hugely valuable in thinking about how we might work better with people with chronic illness in the future; Michal Boyd’s presentation about collaborative palliative care in an ageing world offered much food for thought about how hospice care in the UK prepares and responds to the growing numbers and end of life care needs of people with dementia.
The conference offered valuable learning for me beyond the delivery of expertise from the podium. I witnessed evidence of close collaboration between a national organization supporting hospice care and its local hospices. It is notable that they have a shared corporate identity. I also heard of issues and problems in hospice care in many conversations that closely mirror much of what we struggle with in the UK – including those that ensure a movement that is ready and able to respond to new opportunities and demands.
A masterclass that I ran for nurse leaders working in hospices confirmed the same difficulties around change management that many experience in the UK. We could do so much more globally to consider how we prepare and respond to a changing and uncertain future. The work of New Zealand hospices in addressing issues of isolation and rurality in their delivery of care are commendable. We could learn much from them in parts of the UK.
I return to the UK enriched, challenged and motivated to ensure that Help the Hospices looks anew and in different directions for answers to some of the challenges facing hospice care here. The openness of many of many that I met in New Zealand to learn from a whole variety of sources and relationships is something I am keen to enact. Finally the kindness and hospitality that I was offered was almost overwhelming; we must make sure we do the same for any visiting speakers coming to the UK.
Thank you Hospice New Zealand.”
To find out more about Hospice NZ & hospice services in NZ please visit the website