Our People in Profile: Dr. Stephanie Connidis says palliative care improves quality of life, can even ‘extend how long you live your life’

Dr. Stephanie Connidis is medical director of the INSPIRED COPD Outreach Program and Hospice Halifax, which is slated to open in spring 2019.
Dr. Stephanie Connidis is medical director of the INSPIRED COPD Outreach Program and Hospice Halifax, which is slated to open in spring 2019.

"Even if you can’t always cure, you can always care.”

Dr. Stephanie Connidis applies this philosophy to her work as a family doctor, medical director of the INSPIRED COPD Outreach Program, and medical director of Hospice Halifax, which is slated to open in spring 2019.

“Hospice Halifax is a place like home for people who are reaching the end of their lives and who are unable to remain at home but don’t need hospital care,” explained Dr. Connidis, who volunteered at Hospice Halifax for 10 years before becoming medical director.

The Halifax Hospice team includes physicians, nurses, social workers, bereavement counsellors, more than 100 volunteers and a waiting list of many community members interested in volunteering.

“The hospice really is about the community – services in the community, by the community, for the community.”

Dr. Connidis said the hospice will also provide an opportunity to build capacity in palliative care.

“We’re really emphasizing that family physicians come forward who have or want to develop skills in palliative care to participate in our mentorship program,” she said. “They can add to their expertise and bring those skills back to the community.”

Capacity building is in keeping with the recently released federal Framework on Palliative Care in Canada, which stresses that palliative care is a shared responsibility.

“It’s not only up to palliative care specialists,” Dr. Connidis said. “All disciplines need to ensure their trainees are educated; that the public is aware of palliative care.

“It can be given alongside other interventions,” she added. “People often think about it as an either-or.”

Her passion for palliative care has led to Dr. Connidis taking on numerous leadership roles in this area.

She sits on the national board for the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians and the National Task Force for Advance Care Planning. She also recently received the Award of Excellence for Advocacy and Care of the Elderly from both the Nova Scotia College of Family Physicians and College of Family Physicians of Canada.

Dr. Connidis values the opportunity to “work in teams and benefit from the expertise of all disciplines.”

Together, they ask, “How can we come together to better serve people with advanced diseases who are less able to leave their homes?”

She said there’s a growing focus on “being mindful of our limited health care resources while providing the care people need in the place they most desire it, which is usually at home.”

Many people are wary of palliative care, explained Dr. Connidis. “People are afraid it shortens your life. In fact, not only does it make your quality of life better, research is showing it can also extend how long you live your life.”

What’s most important, Dr. Connidis said, is that people develop an advance care plan and think ahead about their goals of care.

“An advance care plan can tell us who patients are as people and what is important to them so that we, as health care providers, can provide care consistent with their goals and wishes.”

To learn more about palliative care, please visit http://www.nshealth.ca/service-details/Palliative%20Care.

To learn more about the INSPIRED COPD Outreach Program, which brings together a team of professionals to provide education and support for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and their families – right in their homes – please visit http://www.nshealth.ca/content/inspired-copd-outreach-program.

For details about Hospice Halifax, please visit www.hospicehalifax.ca.