Elsa Swanepoel


1. What is your name?
Elsa Swanepoel

2. Which hospice do you work for?
Hospice White River

3. What do you do there?
I am the Nursing Service Co-ordinator. Together with the volunteer nurses we specialise in providing quality home base care for patients diagnosed with a life-threatening disease.

4. How long have you been there?
I have been working for Hospice White River for the past 7 years.


1. Why did you decide to focus on palliative care?
Palliative care and end of life care was always in the back ground, nobody wants to think about it or discuss it. I wanted to make a difference and make people realize that you have to plan for death and dying as much as you need to plan for birth.

2. What gives you the greatest fulfilment?
To know that I make a difference in someone’s life, however big or small it might be.

3. What do you find the most challenging?
Some family dynamics make it very difficult to care for the patient the way you want to care for them. It is also very challenging when a patient is referred to us at the last minute; it is difficult to build up a trust relationship with the patient and family members.

4. What do you think people find the most challenging about a life-threatening diagnosis?
The uncertainty of the way forward, concerns about their loved ones. They also find it difficult to break the news of a life-threatening diagnosis to family members, especially small children.

5. What do you think that you personally bring to your job that reflects who you are as a person?
Compassion, patience and an ear that really listens to my patients and hears what they want to say.

6. How do you take care of your own health and balance?
I try to eat healthy and spend as much time outdoors with my family as possible. Hospice White River also has a “Care for the carer” programme where we have a “TLC” treatment once a month.

7. What is your advice to anyone else wishing to join your profession?
Make sure that this is what you really want to do and then do it 100%. It is important to always care for yourself first, before you can care for others.

8. What is your advice to anyone given a life-threatening diagnosis?
Take each day as it comes, talk to family and friends, and build up your support system. Ask for help when needed and accept it when help is offered.

9. What is your advice to the loved ones of anyone who is given a life-threatening diagnosis?
Just be there for the patient, support them 100% in the choices they make, whether it is to go for treatment or even if they choose no treatment. Allow them to go through the different stages of loss until they came to acceptance of their situation. Just be there!!!

10. How do your loved ones feel about the work that you do?
My family is very supportive and they are proud of what I am doing in the community.

11. What do you like the most about the hospice that you work with?
We are a small and committed team and we look out for each other’s needs.

12. Do you have a “motto” that you tend to live by that you would like to share?
“Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you.”