When I first contacted Hospis Malaysia about making a visit to their organization in Kuala Lumpur, I didn’t know quite what to expect. I knew I would be shadowing a nurse for two days, and attending a communication workshop for another two. What I could not have guessed was how welcomed I would feel by all of the incredibly compassionate and friendly doctors, nurses, and other staff members.
Though it is spelled with an s, Hospis Malaysia provides home hospice care that is similar to what we have in the United States. They have around 400 patients, and over 20 nurses. They have modern facilities and equipment. They provide skillful, thorough, and evidence based care. In addition, they hold regular workshops on different palliative care topics open to their own employees, but also to those at other healthcare organizations within the community.
Not only does Hospis Malaysia provide excellent care to its patients with terminal illness, but they cared for me as a complete stranger as well. I didn’t just get to visit the site, I actually stayed in their basement suite for four nights.
I was paired with several different nurses who were kind enough to take me to lunch between our home visits during the day. I had enough food in my apartment, but the nurses took me to dinner every night too, even though they didn’t have to. We shared stories about our work, our lives, and our cultures.
It was such a relief being with people who speak my language, and I don’t mean English. I mean the language of nurses, and of palliative care nurses in particular. Though we live thousands of miles apart, we all had this common bond, and understanding of the importance of quality end of life care.
I often feel lonely in the backpacking crowd. I have distanced myself from hostels in recent months, because the average long-term traveler tends to have way different goals for their trip than I do. They might have respect for what I’m doing, but most can’t really understand it, and that’s okay. When I meet people like the staff at Hospis Malaysia, I’m reminded that there are people who do understand.
One of the questions I usually get is “isn’t it sad taking care of dying people?” I think any kind of nursing can be sad at times, but being in that room full of palliative care professionals all weekend, I saw way more smiles and laughter than I saw any sign of sadness. Hospice nurses help ease pain and suffering during some of the most difficult times of peoples’ lives, and the thought of being able to do that makes me pretty happy.
I am grateful for all of the friends I’ve met along the way, but I am especially grateful for those who share my passion and love of this field. I am grateful for Hospis Malaysia, and every other organization who have opened their doors to me to share the incredible work that they do. I am grateful for the positive impact that these connections will have on the rest of my career, and my life.