Hospice role is a 'privilege'

A great gift: Dr Claire Langdon says it is a privilege to be able to come to work in her new role as CEO at the Busselton Hospice. Picture: Brianna Melville.
A great gift: Dr Claire Langdon says it is a privilege to be able to come to work in her new role as CEO at the Busselton Hospice. Picture: Brianna Melville.

Dr Claire Langdon has joined the team of passionate staff and volunteers at Busselton Hospice, bringing a world of expertise to her new role as chief executive.

The hospice sits nestled among the among the peppermint trees near Busselton hospital, just 100 metres from the shore.

For the past 30 years, the volunteers at the hospice have offered palliative care for patients who are diagnosed with a life limiting or terminal illness.

"Being able to be with someone at the end of their life is a real privilege," Dr Langdon said.

"To be the person that is holding their hand as they slip out of life, especially if there's no one else, because nobody wants to die alone."

Dr Langdon brings a world of experience to her new role as hospice chief executive, with time spent as a clinician, epidemiologist, training in speech pathology and working in research.

Dr Langdon has also travelled to five different countries on a fellowship, speaking to the best people in their fields to bring new knowledge to Australia on palliative care.

In recent years, she moved into administrative roles, seeing it as an opportunity to affect greater change in the healthcare system.

She spent the last three years in Melbourne with the Department of Health, where she worked on health policy, establishing pathways to make sure there were enough doctors, nurses, midwives, allied heath and paramedics in both the city and rural areas.

"Rural medicine is quite close to my heart," she said.

Moving over to Busselton with her husband, Dr Langdon said the role seemed like a perfect fit.

"We really wanted to come down and be part of the community. When this role came up I thought, I'd really like to be able to do that, to be part of the community and help to build the hospice."

The hospice is completely true to its motto, 'by the community, for the community', first started by a group of locals who got together to raise funds to construct the building which is still operating today.

With occasional grants but no continual government funding, the hospice continues to run on fundraising activities, donations and the generosity of volunteers and philanthropic benefactors.

More than 100 specifically selected and highly trained volunteers spend their time at the hospital and the hospice, interacting with patients to make their lives as full and comfortable as they can.

"Healthcare is about people, and helping people to have the best lives that they can with the skills that you bring to it," Dr Langdon said.

"It's being part of someone's life journey for a few steps or for a little bit longer. You learn something from every single patient you see."

Joining the hospice, Dr Langdon said she was enamoured by the community's connection to it.

"Talking to people in the community, it's amazing how much the community is aware of the hospice and how they feel about it. It's really dear to people's hearts. I was just out this morning and a woman told me her dad died there. It's that real sense of community and connection. It's a unique thing in Busselton."

While some volunteers spend time interacting with patients at the hospice, others help with things like walking and talking with someone with grief, or helping someone gain skills to care for someone at home.

"That's a really gorgeous thing, because it helps them with the journey. It's a great gift to be able to support someone.