Abundant Life – enriching students through Palliative care

Amy Fouten & Randy Fakier are two students from the Stellenbosch University Medical School and at the time of interviewing were busy in their second week of a four week elective at the Abundant Life Palliative Care section of the Victoria Hospital.

What are electives?

Simply put, electives are a four week program where you, the student, are able to choose where you would like to gather experience in the medical field in something that interests you.

Why Palliative care was their choice?

Amy Fouten recalled having a personal experience with Palliative care when her grandmother was referred to Abundant Life and that is how she experienced the organisation first hand. What really interested Amy about palliative care was the support that her grandmother received.

Her grandmother had been living in an old age home and she had enough assistance there, however, with Abundant Life the difference was a real effort and personal connection made with the family. She mentioned that in the medical world, it can be a very ‘impersonal way’ of getting to know a patient at times.

“You basically just look at the disease and how you can treat the patient, however with palliative care it is a much bigger picture you look at and in my opinion a much more effective way of treating the patient because of the fact it’s very much patient centred and driven.” they both added.

From that personal experience Amy, as well as Randy, realised that their calling was to experience and spend more time in the Palliative Care field. The way the patient’s family is treated and interacted with to the point where all worries and concerns are addressed, is the way they feel situations should be handled, and how they would run a practice one day when they eventually become Doctors.

How palliative care fits in with Victoria Hospital?

The students then elaborated on how the model of palliative care works in Victoria Hospital and how it fits in. Randy mentioned that in the hospital it works on a referral basis, so in each section of the hospital there are wards; medical wards; surgical wards; and there is the referral system when the doctor will refer a patient who they feel needs palliative care.

The team at Abundant Life then assesses the referrals, discussing with the patient and their family the illness and the facts around it. Services are then offered such as home-based care, and then if need be, patients are referred to St Luke’s hospice as well as other hospices.

How do the students fit in at Abundant Life?

Besides the above-mentioned activities, the students also fit in where needed because the team at Abudant Life is quite small and currently they have +- 260 patients that they see to at the hospital as well as at home. The areas in which Abundant Life works in are Retreat, Grassy park, Lavender Hill and Wynberg.

Organ failure is one of Abundant Life’s big focuses and there is a specific referral letter that is processed whereby if you have kidney failure or heart failure, the students will focus and attend immediately to the patient, because one might not necessarily think that organ failure in general would need palliative care, but the patients actually do and that is where the model of having palliative care in hospitals works so well.

You are able to recognise the patient in hospital and refer early. The students also assist with home visits and providing food, milk and essentials to the patients they serve because the vast majority of them don’t even have those basics.

Randy & Amy are Generation Y ambassadors for hospice and palliative care

Randy and Amy are two fantastic examples of young 22 and 23 year old students passionate about palliative care and passionate about getting the word out there. With their four week experience at Abundant Life they were able to see the truth about what hospice and palliative care is all about and not necessarily the perceptions that are rife. Through their personal experience they will be able to change mind-sets for the better.

Thoughts of coming back to volunteer when they are on study breaks were mutually entertained  by the two students because of the positive impact they can see the hospice is making in people’s lives, and of course the positive impact it has had in their lives.

Great work is being done by Abundant Life and if you want to find out more and get involved click here.