New nursing practice just right for this time

Human and Social Development

- Kate Hildebrandt

Hofmeyr. Photo: UVic Photo Services

“The BSN program introduced me to concepts involving advocacy and leadership in nursing—things I’d never really thought about before,” says Sydney Hofmeyr, 29, who graduates this July from UVic nursing.

A true-blue island girl who grew up in Victoria, Hofmeyr is happily married and loving her job as a home and community care nurse with Island Health’s Victoria Health Unit on Cook at Balmoral. She started work in April after completing a practicum there, and says she was beyond excited to care for mostly local elderly folks living within their own homes.

She also loves the fact that she can ride her bike to and from her daily appointments and connect with the surrounding community in her travels.

I feel quite lucky to be working as a nurse today, helping people through these dramatic challenges we are all facing right now.
Sydney Hofmeyr, UVic BSN class of 2020

The path to palliative care

As a health care professional, she is prepared to respond to the province’s dual public health emergencies, treating COVID-19 as well as opioid overdoses.

As of May 2020, BC experienced a total of 143 deaths from COVID-19. Illicit drug toxicity deaths, on the other hand, claimed 113 lives in March alone compared to 70 deaths this time last year.

While Hofmeyr understands these challenges as part of her job, she has also faced such tragedy on the home front. Her 15-year-old brother died of an overdose while she was in her second year of nursing studies.

She was shaken by his loss and how his death impacted the community around him. “I chose to move on with my studies so I didn’t take a break from school,” she says. 

Reflecting on that decision now, she adds, “I guess I thought I knew what grief was about, that I could deal with this.” She also chose a palliative care focus to her nursing studies in an effort to help heal herself and those around her.

A good share of her third year was spent working through her grief.

“My studies helped me,” she says. “I developed a real interest in the philosophy of death and bereavement. I became fascinated, too, by the foundational principles of palliative care which involve basic human values I think are lacking today.”

Many members of her generation want to be political and caring, she says. “But you have to ask yourself, are those qualities in your nature? These qualities were not in my nature until I started working with professor Kelli Stajduhar. She has become my ideal of what a nurse is, and what kind of nurse I aspire to be.”

Completing a practicum under Stajduhar’s supervision at UVic’s Institute on Aging and Lifelong Health (IALH) was fascinating, says Hofmeyr. “I was inspired to see research conducted alongside a community. This gave me an opportunity to consolidate my learning and gain a whole new perspective on nursing.”

Kelli Stajduhar sitting in a group meeting for PORT
"Palliative care isn't a ‘thing’ or a ‘place’ but an approach that focuses on care for the person, their family and community," says Kelli Stajduhar, UVic Nursing/IALH (right). Photo: Mike Morash/UVic

Art installation inspires life

Hofmeyr struck a similarly resonant chord proposing the creation of a ‘Before I Die’ wall to Stajduhar’s  team. The project helped serve as a community think-piece around life having an end point. The institute, UVic’s School of Nursing and the Deathly Matters conference organizers supported the installation set up at the Student Union Building in fall 2019.

Passersby were invited to complete the phrase, “Before I die, I want to …” on an expansive chalk board. The concept was originally created by artist Candy Chang who mounted a similar wall on an abandoned house in New Orleans after the death of a loved one. There are now more than 5,000 ‘Before I Die’ walls worldwide.

It was an interesting process watching people approach the wall. It’s an intimate act to make a claim about what you want out of life.
Sydney Hofmeyr, UVic BSN class of 2020

Some of us need help starting that conversation, defining our desires, understanding ourselves—essential steps for a palliative care practitioner in preparing their client for a good death.

Sydney Hofmeyr was interviewed by Victoria News about the 'Before I Die' wall in October 2018.

Clear that nursing education never ends, Hofmeyr says, “I believe my own thirst for knowledge will lead me back when the time is right for me.” For now, she is both surprised and proud at how far she has come as the first in her family to earn a university degree.

“I know I still have a lot to learn,” she says, juggling confidence with humility. “But I’ve got good skills. I’ve done well in school and I’m working in a terrific job. I’m happy with all that. Still,” she pauses, grinning, “I find myself asking how I managed to land this amazing opportunity.”

Photos

In this story

Keywords: aging, arts, convocation, health, nursing, student life

People: Sydney Hofmeyr, Kelli Stajduhar

Publication: The Ring


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