Profiles  >  Kerry Ann Bracewell, RPN and Clinical Navigator in Palliative Care

Kerry Ann Bracewell is a Clinical Navigator and has been a RPN for 18 years. Working as a RPN has been very rewarding personally for Kerry Ann through knowing the impact of enhancing the lives of patients and their families. Kerry Ann truly loves her work.

Kerry Ann works for Good Shepherd Centres Palliative Care Shared Care Outreach Team at Good Shepherd in the role of Clinical Navigator. When Kerry Ann started her RPN career, she worked as a staff nurse on General Medicine, Surgical, Geriatric Assessment, Spinal Cord, and Stroke Rehab units at Hamilton Health Sciences. It was these experiences that set the foundation of Kerry Ann’s strong knowledge base.

In Kerry Ann’s early years of nursing, she adapted to the changing role of RPNs, through continuing education in Palliative Care and with mentoring several practical nursing students. Kerry Ann completed Learning Essential Approaches to Palliative and End of Life Care and Comprehensive Advance Palliative Care Education, as well as Pain and Symptom Management courses. Near the beginning of Kerry Ann’s career, she accepted a staff nurse position at Leeds General Infirmary and Teaching Hospital in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. Kerry Ann decided to make the move to gain experience and to see nursing from a different perspective. Kerry Ann arrived in England with a job and suitcase. Her work was as a member of the float team, and the area that would shape her future was her work at Wheatfield Palliative Care Hospice. This experience re-affirmed her passion and commitment to Palliative Care.

After about a year, Kerry Ann returned to Canada with an eagerness to specialize in as a palliative care nurse, but positions for RPNs were limited. Settling for a staff nurse position, she then realized there were other sectors of nursing she could explore. Kerry Ann then started her journey working with VON Hamilton that took her on an eight year endeavour. Kerry Ann was the first RPN, with Hamilton VON, to be certified in Peritoneal Dialysis, she was also a great resource and mentor to nursing students, new nursing staff, and her colleagues in palliative care related issues. Kerry Ann gained a wealth of experience working with end of life patients and their families at the Dr. Bob Kemp Hospice. During this time, Kerry Ann worked autonomously in the Hamilton community and built exceptional relationships with physicians, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and other members of the interprofessional team.

In 2012, Kerry Ann was very excited about accepting a role with Good Shepherd’s Emmanuel House, which is a 10 bed residential hospice. Kerry Ann’s family has a long history of supporting the Good Shepherd organization in Hamilton. The Good Shepherd’s mission is “Never Stop Loving” and Kerry Ann shares the organization’s values of availability, flexibility, adaptability, hospitality and dignity making her work both personally and professionally fulfilling. While Kerry Ann was working at Emmanuel House, Good Shepherd received funding to expand the Palliative Care Shared Care Outreach Team into Hamilton West. This funding increase led to the opportunity to create new roles, and one of them was that of the Clinical Navigator. It was identified that a nursing background was a great asset to this role and that her RPN expertise was a good fit. Kerry Ann was the first RPN hired in this role by the Hamilton, Niagara, Haldimand, and Brant LHIN in the role of Clinical Navigator.

Kerry Ann’s role as Clinical Navigator allows her to be a strong advocate for the patients and caregivers and facilitates them to empower themselves in directing their care. Recognizing and respecting that each of the clients Kerry Ann supports are unique individuals with wishes, expectations, needs, hopes and fears. This has benefited Kerry Ann to navigate the patients and caregivers through the complex system of health and community services frequently required at end of life. Kerry Ann provides the coordination of community resources including:  CCAC;  community agencies;  pharmacies;  and physicians, to enable clients to honour their end of life wishes while keeping their caregivers informed and supported. Kerry Ann regularly follows up with clients and caregivers to ensure that their needs are being met, and to provide support during the bereavement period. Kerry Ann knows the health care system well from her years of experience working in community and can anticipate her clients’ needs and have resources ready immediately.

As a Clinical Navigator, Kerry Ann is also the initial contact for all new referrals for her team. She assists in prioritization and triaging of new referrals, provides guidance and direction of all incoming calls to internal and external community resources, schedules home visits, and coordinates the multidisciplinary team meetings with outside agencies. Along with these responsibilities, Kerry Ann is responsible for drafting all reports for the LHIN for the Palliative Care Shared Care Outreach Team program. Kerry Ann also belongs to the committees for the development of the Hamilton Palliative Care Shared Care Outreach Team and is involved with Good Shepherd’s ongoing policy development related to ethical issues surrounding the controversial physician-assisted death.

Kerry Ann strongly believes, as an RPN, that we enhance the dignity and quality of life, of our patients and their families.