Dr Michael Kearney, one of the world leaders in palliative medicine, returned to his native Cork on Thursday, 27 September to lead an inspirational, fully-booked, day-long workshop at the recently opened Northridge House at St Luke’s Home, Cork. Michael Kearney has hugely shaped the palliative care world through his natural, expansive and holistic approach to end of life care. He has inspired many practitioners of all disciplines through his insights into the spiritual anguish of suffering and what he describes as “soul pain”. Kearney’s book Mortally Wounded. Stories of Soul Pain, Death and Healing is to be found on the bookshelf of most palliative practitioners and therapists.
At a Day Conference at St Luke’s Home Education Centre, Cork – ‘Learning to Breathe Under Water’ (exploring the nature of caregiver stress, burnout and compassion fatigue) L-R Bruce Pierce, Director of Education, Dr Eoin Monahan Conference Chairman, Dr Michael Kearney, and Dr Radhule Weininger.
Using the image of “Learning to breathe underwater”, Kearney with co-presenter Dr Radhule Weininger, explored the nature of caregiver stress, burnout, compassion fatigue and how the approach of ‘exquisite empathy’ can transform, inspire and energise those who work in painful situations of care. Exquisite empathy as coined by Harrison & Westwood 2009 is possible when clinicians develop and practice a high level of self awareness: being able to be emotionally present to the person we are caring for. Those who provide spiritual care will recognise this approach as being at the heart of pastoral care. The presence of a wide diversity of disciplines at this workshop – medicine, nursing, chaplaincy, education and therapies of many kinds – is testament to the high esteem that Dr Kearney is held in.
This workshop through theory and practice brought the participants to a deeper level of appreciation of the importance of emotional awareness that bears fruit not only for practitioners but more importantly for those we are privileged to care for in a way that enables us, even in the most stressful situations, to recognise, come close to, and remain emotionally available to patients in a deep and transformative way.
At a time when many are expressing concern about the human reality of pain, illness and suffering, when healthcare budgets are under unprecedented pressure, this conference organised by St Luke’s Education Centre and co-sponsored by the Irish Hospice Foundation is timely.