Around the Christmas holidays, staff randomly selects patients to whom they will give a gift. Last year, Lyndsey, a patient care assistant, painted this painting of Bill’s cat Sam, which he hangs on the wall at the end of his bed. Every day when Bill se
Matthew Manor

While the new name, Transitional Support Unit, helps patients and families better understand the type of care that is provided on Connell 3 – care and support for people who will transition from hospital to living environments that best meet their needs – it does not begin to describe the compassionate, specialized care people experience on this unit.

Linda Arter was one of the patients asked to weigh in on selecting a name. She and her husband Bob thought Transitional Support Unit was a good choice, but both were quick to say that it doesn’t represent the excellent care that is provided.

“Staff has a great sense of humour, which can be the best medicine – it doesn’t cost anything and there are no harmful side effects,” says Linda Arter.

The Transitional Support Unit (TSU) at Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) includes 35 beds, some private, some shared, and a sunroom that doubles as an activity room and dining area. Unlike most hospital units, this floor is bustling: patients moving about as they are able, witty banter and interesting conversations between patients and staff, and personal items such as hot sauce and afghan blankets stand out from the hallways.

Dr. Rasika Wijeratne is responsible for the overall care of patients on the TSU, and explains that patients here are waiting to transition to another destination, such as a rehabilitation facility, long-term care home, retirement home or a group home. Their waits can vary from days to years.

“Try to remember how you felt when you were unable to return to your own home for whatever reason; now imagine that going on for a prolonged period, and add to that the physical pains of illness and the psychological pains of not being able to go home – this is what patients on the TSU are going through,” says Dr. Wijeratne.

“It takes way more than 'practicing medicine' or being an expert in one’s area of training to provide the comprehensive care patients on this unit need,” added Wijeratne. “The TSU care team is filled with great listeners and creative thinkers who use their big shoulders and even bigger hearts to acknowledge and validate people’s pain, and support them and their family members to make the best possible decisions in difficult times. It takes the combined compassionate efforts of all of us to provide the care they deserve.”

Validation therapy is a form of therapeutic interaction that is common on the TSU. It helps the care team connect with those patients on the unit who have dementia by emphasizing the emotional aspects of their interactions and less on the facts. For instance, if a patient believes they are still a mail carrier, even though they haven’t done that job for many years, the team would respect this person’s feelings and help them dress for work and deliver envelopes to the care desk.

Haley Tavares, a registered practical nurse, says getting to know patients is a must on the TSU. “Many people here have complex health conditions, including challenges with cognition that make it difficult for them to tell you what they need or how they feel,” says Tavares. “We need to be patient, spend time with them, and learn their ways of communicating.”

A common denominator among those who work and volunteer on the Transitional Support Unit is a genuine love and appreciation for the patients whose lives have been forever changed by a health event or condition that brought them here.

“It's guaranteed that, every day, any one of the patients is going to make my day with their sense of humour, a life story, or their appreciation for what I do,” says Lyndsey Stevens, a patient care assistant. “It’s important to me that they feel as comfortable as possible here, and know that we care about them and appreciate the contributions they’ve made to the communities they’ve touched, including our KHSC community.”

After participating in a brainstorming session to name Connell 3, one of the patient experience advisors who were involved, Phyllis Davis, wrote in to say, “Although the name is new, I am quite certain that the same magical work will be taking place there. I was absolutely amazed at the stories of the creative ways this unit makes patients feel at ease in their new situations. I am proud to know that such great care is taking place at KHSC.”