Health & Wellness

Healthcare Heroes

Recognising the entire team at PALS during Cancer Awareness Month
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From the nurses and social worker on the front line to the unsung heroes doing administrative work behind the scenes – it’s a truly team effort at PALS Cancer Care in Bermuda.

So much so, Colleen English DeGrilla, the charity’s executive director, was unable to single anyone out when asked to highlight an individual as a healthcare hero.

Instead, Ms English DeGrilla nominated the entire staff at PALS.

“The PALS team is a true team – we do not work alone,” she said. “Every single person from the administrators to the clinical staff provide a piece of the puzzle.”

The team, which includes six nurses, a medical social worker, a palliative care physician and admin staff, visits about 200 cancer patients in the community at various stages of the cancer journey.

Their services come at no cost to patients and their families. PALS also provides free hospital beds, wheelchairs, commodes and walkers, as well as 24-hour coverage for emergency situations and end-of-life care.

And it is teamwork every step of the way.

“Every patient that receives PALS services is assessed by the social worker and then regularly seen by the nurse and physician, as needed. We provide a multidisciplinary team approach hoping to meet the physical, emotional and social needs of all of our patients,” Ms English DeGrilla said.

They also have one another’s backs. “Our nurses are geographically placed by parish. However, they fill in when someone is sick, on vacation or when there are many referrals coming in for one nurse—they will offer to pick up and help.

“They will assist each other with more medically needy patients and families. They all work as a team, collaborating daily on patients, care and visiting.”

Ms English DeGrilla’s role is to ensure the team runs effectively and efficiently, but she also ensures staff are taking care of themselves.

“This job is rewarding but can also be very difficult and stressful. The nurses lose many patients they have grown very close to. It is important for us all to always be aware of our own self-care.”

It takes a very unique personality to work in this field.

“As a social worker, I developed a passion for end-of-life care many years ago while working at Bermuda Hospitals Board,” Ms English DeGrilla said.

“I truly feel it’s a calling. It’s not a career path that anyone can go into; you must have the desire to help sick people at any stage and be able to handle loss but also embrace small steps forward like remission.

“Each member of the team brings a wealth of knowledge and experience and is drawn to work at PALS. It is truly an honour to be allowed into a patient’s life when they are at their most vulnerable.”

Services are always improving as PALS continually strives to expand and enhance the quality of life of patients.

Programmes include the Integrative Oncology Programme that covers nutrition, movement and psychology, funded by a Bermuda Health Council grant; Healing Vibes with Nina London; and Ms London’s New and Beautiful Me class, which provides make-up and hair guidance for women going through cancer treatment. This programme is sponsored by Headway Hair and Body and by a fundraising event held by Ms London.

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