Our Story

Kath Murray was hired by Victoria Hospice in 1988 – the year that Rain Man won Best Picture, and Calgary hosted the Winter Olympics.

Not long after she arrived she was asked to assist in developing a palliative care course for the local community college’s Home Support Workers program.

The informative course was taught at Camosun College for several years. A few years in, the college decided to not run the course anymore and a dear friend and colleague, Terry Downing, asked Kath if she would like to teach it privately, together, in an intensive 2 ½ day format. The course was a success and she and Terry began teaching palliative care workshops throughout BC.

Several years later Terry withdrew from teaching and Kath joined forces with Elizabeth Causton, counsellor and educator extraordinaire. They taught workshops around the province of BC for home support workers. The workshops were also attended by nurses, paramedics, and hospice volunteers. Kath recognized the need for better student ‘handouts’ that participants could refer to in the future, but those plans wouldn’t be realized until a few years later.

In 2004 Kath went east, to Hood College in Frederick, Maryland to take her Masters in Thanatology. It was an unforgettable experience, having the opportunity to look at death, dying and bereavement from such diverse perspectives. After having raised 5 children, this was her time to focus on studying and learning, and she loved the synergy of working with colleagues in an interprofessional program. Thanks to her incredible professors, Dr. Dana Cable and Dr. Terry Martin, Kath blossomed in that opportunity to learn and grow, and returned to Victoria with her Masters degree.

Kath was more determined, now, to update the handouts which she had used in previous years. She began writing and produced, what became, the initial draft of the Essentials in Hospice Palliative Care textbook. She had that book published and began using it with workshop participants.

It was during this time that Kath began consulting for different health authorities and organizations throughout BC.

While consulting with Northern Health, Kath was asked to participate in a working group with Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control. The specific question that the group was exploring was, “how do we prepare the workforce for the coming tsunami of dying?” After the group finished meeting, that professional question became her personal quest, and she started examining what she could do to support front line caregivers – personal support workers, healthcare assistants, resident care assistants, continuing care assistants, home and continuing care workers, nurses assistants, and home support workers. From this quest came the 2nd edition of Essentials in Hospice Palliative Care.

Around this time Kath was asked to make a presentation at her daughter’s practical nurse program and the instructors of that course expressed great interest in the materials. They requested a companion workbook to further the student’s learning. In response to their request, Kath developed the companion workbook.

Then, anticipating the needs of the instructors and wanting to make the teaching and learning experience a positive one for both students and instructors, Kath prepared PowerPoint Teaching Presentations, an Instructors Guide added in the podcasts and videos. With the development of the materials to support both students and instructors, over 100 colleges across Canada adopted and began using the materials in their core curriculum for both personal support workers, healthcare assistants and practical nurses.

In 2013, as Kath prepared to write the next edition, she and her team conducted program evaluation and research, or what she coins “dipping my toes in research”. The research team included Kath, Ted, Ann-Marie Gilbert, Dr. Anne Bruce and Dr. Antoinette Oberg. Together they developed the methodology which included surveys and interviews of both students and instructors who were using the materials. Following the compilation and evaluation of the research, the decision was made to create materials specifically for personal support workers.

As Kath began writing the next set of resources, an extremely talented artist, Joanne Thomson, came on board to illustrate the book. Joanne was able to ‘bring the book to life’ with her beautiful colour illustrations depicting various stages of caregiving.

As it was vital to have materials that were based on best practice, Kath was delighted to have HPC physicians, nurses, counsellors, personal support workers, PSW educators and employers review the text and provide their expert input. The result was Integrating a Palliative Approach: Essentials for Personal Support Workers text and companion workbook, along with PowerPoint teaching presentations, a podcast library and video’s to support students and instructors.

See what industry specialists, experts, and those in the field of hospice palliative care are saying about the new Integrating a Palliative Approach: Essentials for Personal Support Workers.

In 2012/13 a special edition was made for training nurses in Nepal. The story of Life and Death Matters is far from over. Currently the resources are being translated into “American” (for use in the United States) and Spanish, and new resources are being developed for use in practical nurse programs.