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Dr. Monica Branigan

Dr. Monica Branigan

Role at the Centre

Psychosocial Counsellor

Leader, Continuing Professional Development

Year started at the Centre









Dr. Monica Branigan speaks with a remarkable and careful grace, which must reflect an ordered and quiet mind. But underlying her carefully chosen words, there’s a compassionate tone in her voice that is almost instantly calming. It’s no surprise to find she’s been drawn to palliative care for almost her entire working life. “I graduated in 1982. When I got into palliative care it was like coming home, because some of my most satisfying experiences were with palliative care patients.” Her top-of-mind example is a patient she cared for as a newly qualified family doctor in Northern BC. She had to drive for an hour to get their farm and give them morphine. That experience, and others in her early days in family medicine, demonstrated the extra dimension that providing palliative care in a patient’s home brings to the doctor/patient relationship. It is, she says, a more satisfying connection: “I had a real longing to have meaningful conversations with people and to be able to connect with them in a real way.”

This is her second stint at the Temmy Latner Centre. She worked here before, a decade ago, after she and her husband moved to Toronto. That initial role was a fellowship position.

This time she has a different role: she’s providing psychosocial support to patients and their families. While it’s true that the other doctors at the Centre can (and do) address these psychosocial aspects, some patients and families simply need more time and attention. So when there are families and patients whose suffering is hard to address, I’m there to support them. I go in and bring my mindfulness training and see if I can be of benefit.”

The other aspect of her role, the academic part, is to help the Centre build a Continuing Professional Development program for the Centre’s physicians. She brings her own unique perspective; one gained after reflection and study. “I’m really interested in how we look after ourselves doing this kind of work. I took a six-month sabbatical and spent a lot of time slowing down. I’m just so impressed with how busy and how many demands there are on people’s time here. It’s really hard to pay attention to what you need to do to look after yourself. It’s so easy to say the patients’ needs trump mine.”

So while the primary task is to develop a way for physicians at the Centre to give and receive feedback, the emphasis is always on an awareness of the stresses and the strains of the work, and the need for collegiate support. “It came out of a desire to support some new colleagues who have joined us. Perhaps you’ve come out of a residency program where you were evaluated to the nth degree. All of a sudden you’re by yourself in the community and you’re wondering ‘How am I doing?’. To get feedback or have somebody go out with you and give you feedback on how you’re doing can be immensely helpful.”

“But also the person giving the feedback feels appreciated for their experience. Out in the community, we’re sometimes in very stressful situations. Our doctors deal with complex symptoms and situations all the time without all the resources of a hospital. How do you do that and support the family at the same time? People end up being very creative, and they need the feedback that ‘you’re doing a great job’. They also need someone else to say. ‘Wow. Love how you do this, let’s bring it back to the group, because they may be able to benefit as well.”

“So that’s part of my job: creating giving feedback and getting feedback, in a way that feels safe and supportive.”

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