Every role at VHA contributes to something amazing. At Home with VHA tells the stories of those who make up VHA Home HealthCare. In honour of National Nursing Week (May 10-16,) we’re spotlighting some of the extraordinary nurses that make up VHA. Meet Palliative Care Registered Practical Nurse (RPN) Cassondra Kahrs.
What do you love most about your role?
Cassondra: I love being able to help people in their tough times of life to make a difference when it matters most. I help my clients plan their final days and make their final life wishes come true. As one example, I had a client who wanted to go up to his cottage 48 hours before his passing so I worked with his family to make it happen. I like making a difference and I feel like this is where I can make the most in my career by working with palliative patients.
What made you want to work in home care?
Cassondra: Originally, when I applied to a position at VHA, it was for palliative care and that’s an area I’ve always wanted to work in. When I saw a position for palliative home care, I didn’t really know what the job would entail. So I applied and got the job, and I’m so glad I did. I really enjoy home care and I never would have expected that. Home care allows me to have flexibility. It also allows me one on one time with my patients and to see them through their journey. We see them from their best times to their worst, and we build deep bonds with not only our patients, but also their families.
What is something you’d like people to know about palliative care?
Cassondra: I always tell people, ‘We’re not only there for the client. We’re there for their families too.’ My job is about much more than performing medical tasks. I’m there to support my clients, be by their side, help them mentally and help them cope with physical symptoms and pain.
Do you have a favourite client memory?
Cassondra: One memory that continues to inspire me in my role every day is from one of my very first clients. The client’s family was having difficulty coping with the end stages of life and they were going to send the client to hospital for their last days. But with home care support we were able to offer them, we helped the patient live at home. In the last few hours, the family was really upset and nervous and they didn’t want to be around their family member, my client. They called me and I was able to be at the client’s bedside as she passed away. I provided supported through the grief to her family. It was of course difficult, but it ended up being a beautiful memory not only for me but for the family as well.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Cassondra: I also wanted to mention that thanks to VHA, I’ve been offered the opportunity to pursue further nursing education to get my Registered Nursing degree through a program called Work$mart. 50 per cent of my tuition will be paid for by VHA while I continue working on a full time basis when my courses begin this Fall. It’s been a dream of mine that I never thought I would be able to achieve. I feel incredibly grateful for VHA and my supervisor.