Congratulations Terry Downing on receiving the 2024 CPCNA Leadership Award!

Congratulations Terry Downing on receiving the 2024 CPCNA Leadership Award!

Last week was Nurses Week and Hospice Palliative Care Week. It was the week that the Canadian Palliative Care Nursing Association presented their award at the annual guest lecture open to everyone.  And this was the week that I was asked to present the CPCNA Leadership Award to Terry Downing.

Together with colleagues several nurses, physicians, health care assistants, and counsellors from Victoria Hospice, Life and Death Matters and Home and Community Care, we nominated Terry Downing for the leadership award and were totally thrilled and not surprised when Terry was named as the recipient.

Here is what I wrote about Terry:

“Terry nursed at Victoria Hospice for most of the past 35 years, retiring just a few months ago.

Her passion has always been to provide and advocate for excellent palliative care for individuals and their families – and in particular, to make it possible for people to die in their homes when that has been their goal/preference.

In the early 1990s, Terry often stopped on her way home from work to facilitate a route change for medications. It was such a simple task, but essential for the person to remain home. It was Terry who planted the seeds for what became the Victoria Hospice Palliative Response Team. A unique team in its day, and the first one in Canada, to respond to palliative care crisis in the home.

And to see how that team has influenced care in the community, almost thirty years later, so many of those tasks that were done in the early years are now done by home and community care nurses.

Over the years Terry supported research (development of the PPS), mentored many colleagues, education materials and taught at dozens of conferences, workshops and new staff orientations.” And she helped develop the Life and Death Matters resources!

The following is Terry’s acceptance speech.

“Thank you so much for all of this…..Kath for your beautiful & kind introduction… my dear friends & colleagues for the gift of the nomination. And to all you in CPCNA, thank you very much for this recognition. I really feel honoured and at the same time humbled because I know I couldn’t have done anything without my teammates. I met along the way. It was in that relationship of building and collaborating where I found great satisfaction and learning. Teamwork really is the cornerstone of our work.

Palliative care has been my passion for 35 yrs.  I loved working closely with patients and families. I found them often my best teachers. When I entered Victoria Hospice, I became part of a very dynamic team of highly skilled clinicians. They all held a common vision and a very high bar for excellence. I was an experienced nurse but still, I felt again like probie surrounded by giants. And then through the years, along camel many many more leaders & mentors… of them sitting beside me!!

For many years, I had a mantra…..”I’m not a leader but I’m a very good follower.” Because I equated leadership with position, title and grand accomplishments. But not so long ago, my colleagues challenged me to speak on leadership at a national conference. That led me to become interested and excited about the concept of “Everyday leadership”- the view that we all lead in some way = not only in huge accomplishments but also in small, quiet and simple ways. And often we don’t see leadership for what it is. Once I re-framed, I saw leadership all around me. Now I believe we all lead in so many different ways. And opportunities do arise – every day.

I recalled one of those small leadership moments from early in my hospice experience. I was chatting with one of the senior nurses, Sheila Hipsey – a wonderful, dear person. I only recall 3 words from our entire conversation…….”Share your ideas”. But those words stuck with me. Sheila offered me an opportunity to be creative and make a contribution. So….I shared my ideas…..some of them bore fruit; many others didn’t. But I honestly believe that without that small nudge, many of those ideas would still be doodles in my journal. She probably never realized the ripple effect of those few words.

I’ve worked with many incredible clinicians in hospice and in community and I owe them much thanks. However, tonight and with it being Nurses’ Week, I’d like to highlight and celebrate my nursing colleagues.  I want to honour the nurses of past who have left us a rich legacy. To the nurses currently working in so many areas of palliative care, thank for all you give and all you do 24/7. It’s a lot and you make a difference. And welcome to the new nurses entering this field. Remember you bring new talents & fresh energy and have much to share. And always aim for excellence and grow your inner leader.

Thank you again – so much – for this recognition and honour. This has been a wonderful way to complete my career.”

As I (Kath) prepared for this presentation, I was reminded of theme that Terry and I often shared in the early years of developing projects, “Feel the Fear and Do It ANYWAY!”  Terry took many risks over the years, perhaps she specialized in Intelligent Risk Taking. Terry did not sit at the sidelines watching – she saw, she stood up, she offered her ideas, she advocated and she made change.

Way to go Terry!

2 Responses

  1. Alhumda’allah Terry , I am sorry i was unable to come and celebrate with you in person . I remember when I started at Hospice in 1993 , i was being groomed for PRT within 6 months of being on the unit . I had only recently been certified as a palliative care nurse at Algonquin College in Ottawa and was still pretty wet behind the ears in terms of winging it on my own and still needed back up . PRT was daunting and after a few buddy shifts i knew i was not ready . Enter Terry who not only scolded the powers that be for rushing me into a position i was obviously not qualified for at that point in time but you wrote me a letter and told me a story about your son who instead of thriving on his B hockey team and being allowed to shine was pushed into the A arena which left him defeated and demoralized. You likened his situation to mine . I felt nurtured and encouraged by you instead of being put in a position where both the patient and i would lose . I was the best at what i did right where i was . I never forgot your kindness and support and went on to put in 1 year shy of 20 years on the unit and LOVED every minute .

    1. I have loved you forever, Thea! You exemplified the ‘heart’ of Hospice. You heart-to-heart hugs are epic. You spread joy wherever you go! What a privilege to work together and get to know each other on a level that will forever endure. Thank you for your kind words and your story – I had totally forgotten all that transpired with Rob & the hockey. Just goes to show how small things we have all said & done make a difference. Thank you, dear friend. Xoxo

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Courtney Murrell is a PSW who works in hospice palliative care.

When she is not at work, she is spending time with her family, going on hikes or writing. Courtney is a lifelong learner and loves to share her passion for writing as a wellness practice.

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