Being There For You Virtually

Shelly Moloney is the driving force behind Hospice West Auckland’s Virtual Services, the innovative approach to enhancing palliative care provision to the West Auckland community.

Shelly has almost 20 years’ experience in palliative care and has been associated with Hospice West Auckland since 2010 when she joined the team as a Clinical Nurse Specialist.  The fact that Shelly relocated to the Eastern Bay of Plenty has not stopped this association and has in many ways been the catalyst to the development of Virtual Services within Hospice West Auckland.  As Shelly says, ‘’the innovative spirit at HWA keeps me coming back.’’ 

While Hospice’s commitment to supporting patients, families and carers has never wavered, over the years Shelly has seen the way in which that support is delivered evolve. She has always believed that palliative care is for everybody, by everybody, and that using Virtual Services is essential to working together to achieve this. “In 1993 Michael Hammer said that the secret of success is not to foresee the future. It is to build a system that is able to prosper in any of the unforeseeable futures,” says Shelly. “I want to be part of a community that is able to continue to deliver care to people in any of the unforeseeable futures that may arise, which is where the Virtual Services team comes in.”

For example, to counteract the nation-wide shortage of experienced, qualified healthcare professionals, Hospice West Auckland has Clinical Nurse Specialists located in Tauranga, Palmerston North, Wanaka, Whakatane and Wellington, working day and night, to deliver expert care to the West Auckland community virtually. They work collaboratively with HWA’s specialist doctors and community palliative care team to ensure that patients and carers have access to care and support 24/7. “We have virtual nurses working in partnership with in-person team members to do joint visits,” explains Shelly. “We have nurses visiting together, one via zoom and one in person, nurses zooming in doctors, doctors zooming in nurses, nurses zooming in the healthcare assistant.”

Virtual Services are not intended to replace in-person visits, but instead extend and enhance the care that Hospice is able to deliver. One of the many benefits is that family members are able to participate in visits, even if they live in other parts of New Zealand or the world.

Shelly is excited about the many opportunities that Virtual Services can provide. “We can zoom in to look at something of concern to patients and can often provide the guidance they need, for example to manage a medication pump, without them having to wait for somebody to travel to visit,” she says. “And we are there in the wee hours so loved ones never have to feel that they are doing this alone.”

And although video conferencing and remote services are something many of us have had to master in the past three years, for some people the thought of ‘zooming in’ can feel a little scary. But as Shelly says: “I was so excited to hear the delight expressed by a 95 year old lady recently who said to the nurse ‘it is exactly as if you are in the room with me!’ Nothing will ever replace a loving touch, but I believe that our presence is so powerful, and virtual visits are just a different way of being present.”

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