Palliative Care Week Profile - Central Zone

Susan Baker (left) and Katie Simms (right) Social Workers with out-patient and community-based palliative care services, Musquodoboit Valley and Sheet Harbour.
Susan Baker (left) and Katie Simms (right) Social Workers with out-patient and community-based palliative care services, Musquodoboit Valley and Sheet Harbour.

This is final article in the series profiling some of Nova Scotia Health’s palliative care staff and volunteers, in recognition of National Hospice Palliative Care Week 2023. In their own words, four members of Central Zone’s palliative care division give voice to a fundamental understanding of what palliative care is all about: A multidisciplinary team approach to patient-centered, life-affirming care. 


Katie Simms, Social Worker, In-patient palliative care services, Musquodoboit Valley and Sheet Harbour hospitals and long-term care facilities

"My favourite part of the role is resource navigation and support. I find it satisfying to connect people to needed resources and supports that they were not aware existed. Especially for patients and families who are facing terminal illness and end of life, the last thing they should be worrying about is financial strain and navigating needed resources, like housing, food, heat and medication. Their energy should be spent on time with their loved ones and doing the things they find enjoyable. Social work is important in palliative care because we hold space and time for processing thoughts and feelings, we explore the non-medical needs impacting the patient and family’s experiences and simply offer companionship to patients and their families through this difficult time."


Susan Baker, Social Worker, out-patient and community-based palliative care services, Musquodoboit Valley and Sheet Harbour

"It’s nice to work so closely with people and build relationships over time. Providing emotional support, helping them to navigate services inside and outside the healthcare system, locating resources in the community. Meeting them where they’re at. Helping them direct where things go and achieve what they want to achieve. That gives me a sense of satisfaction. I see, especially with palliative care patients, their strength and courage and resilience. To be able to see that, I find I learn something valuable from them just as they get something out of working with me."


Dr. David Dupere, Head of Central Zone Palliative Care Division

"A lot of the time, people are fearful to be involved with us for what it implies, but I’ve never thought of our patients as dying. The dying part is a very, very small part of what we do. All of our patients are very much living. Our goal is their goal, and their goal usually is to live the best possible life they can with the time they have left.  For us, that means symptom management, coordinating care, planning realistically for the future. The big thing for me is being able to help guide someone who perhaps doesn’t fully understand the reality of their situation to a place of understanding the simple truth of where they’re at - not based on promises or percentages or hopes for this or hopes for that - so they can come out of that with something that is useful to them; something they can move on and live with that is true and realistic. To me, that’s a big accomplishment."


Karen Verge, Continuing Care Attendant, Palliative Care Unit, VG site

"You get to know the patients, not just their diagnosis. They come back many times, so you get to spend a lot of time with them. You’re with them through their journey. They’ll tell you stories, they’ll tell you about their life, all about their families and what they did for a living; they’ll tell you when they’re scared, they’ll tell you what their night was like. That’s what I like, the communication, it’s very gratifying for me. When I leave at the end of the day, I can look back and say they really enjoyed the whirlpool tub; he liked the feel of getting a shave in the morning; she was able to eat some ice cream. I can’t answer the same questions that our nurses can answer but I can provide support for them and their families. It’s my niche. It’s where I want to be."