Elizabeth and Kristie McAllister know first hand the importance of compassionate care after their parents spent long periods of time in hospital near the end of their lives.

“Our family was struck by how important the level of compassion in Mum and Dad’s care was to their well-being and to the stress levels of our whole family,” said Elizabeth McAllister.

With a desire to support nursing education and create more general awareness about human caring, the McAllisters established the inaugural Arnie and Norma McAllister Lecture in Compassionate Care, which will take place at the University of New Brunswick’s MacLaggan Hall, Room 105, 33 Dineen Dr., Fredericton, N.B., on Tuesday, May 5, at 7 p.m.

In Search of Patient and Family-Centered Care: Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary will be presented by Marlaine Smith, dean of nursing at Florida Atlantic University and the Helen K. Persson Eminent Scholar.

Dr. Smith is an expert nurse scholar who leads university-based nursing programs, which prepare both undergraduate and graduate nurses to be expert clinicians in the art and science of human caring. Each nurse who graduates from the program is prepared to take the national exam to become a holistic nurse.

“Nurses are on the front lines of our health care and more than any other discipline they see what is going on in the lives of our citizens, says Elizabeth McAllister.  “It is important that nurses play a pivotal role in health policy.”

Many patients and families, like the McAllisters, have voiced the desire for care that focuses on their specific needs and demonstrates caring and compassion in interactions with health care providers, says Kathleen Valentine, dean of nursing at UNB.

“Woven within the expert scientific nursing knowledge is also the art and science of human caring,” said Dr. Valentine. “Acknowledging and listening to each patient’s story for ‘what matters most’ directs the expert, evidence-informed care, which then promotes therapeutic actions for healing, health and well-being even in the face of grave illness.” 

Dr. Valentine says although focusing on the needs and desires of the patient and their families first may seem like ordinary roles and responsibilities of health care providers; understanding and responding to the uniqueness of each family and patient is what makes the relationship extraordinary. 

Dr. Smith has served in many roles as a nurse in acute care, public health and long-term care.  She brings these experiences to her role as dean, professor and eminent scholar as she provides leadership in educating the next generation of nurses who practice these values. Dr. Smith is passionate about developing the discipline of nursing, unitary and caring perspectives in nursing, and transforming health care through holistic approaches to healing.  

The McAllisters hope these lectures will help build awareness of the importance of compassion in healing and in the well-being of families. During their time in hospital, Elizabeth McAllister said every kindness and gesture of understanding was important, but respect and compassion were not always there.   

“Certain floors of the hospital were remarkably different in the culture of care. Overall the experience was not positive and added to the pain of seeing our parents being ill and vulnerable. Yet, we understand that with budget cuts increasing faster than demands on the health system, compassion burnout is a serious side effect.”

This inaugural lecture is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Francis Perry at fperry@unb.ca or (506) 451-6844.

Media contact: Natasha Ashfield 

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